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DPS has never been more mobile: More than 1,000 students moved in and out of the district in the last year

As more workers bring their families to the Oil Patch, schools are feeling the impact.

While a growing school district is generally seen as positive, there are challenges that faculty and staff face.

There are 326 more students attending Dickinson Public Schools as of Oct. 1 than there were at the same time last year.

"This report shows 321 -- those were the September numbers," Assistant Superintendent Vince Reep said. "We had families enrolling today. It has not stopped."

Reep presented the student mobility numbers to the Dickinson Public School Board at its regular meeting Monday at the Central Administration Building.

"We use that data as we project where we're going to be next year and in three years and in five years," Reep said. "Things like a snow storm in late October change mobility."

The district is gaining students -- the net gain was 154 over the past year -- but it also loses students, which Superintendent Doug Sullivan said can cause issues in the classroom.

Teachers at the elementary level are responsible for assessing students and determining their academic level, Sullivan said.

"They can do that on Friday and then on Monday the child would be gone," Sullivan said. "That's happened a number of times where we have a student in school on Friday and we look for them for the next week and then finally realize, 'Oh, they moved.' We don't know where to, but they're gone."

Teachers also have to get students acclimated to a new classroom and school, Sullivan said.

"That all takes a lot of time and effort," Sullivan said.

From Sept. 14, 2012, to Sept. 12 of this year, 616 students came into DPS while 462 left, according to Reep's data.

Kindergarteners are not included in the statistics, and neither are seniors who graduate on schedule. Early graduations, dropouts, transfers to home schooling, expulsions and students who are placed out of DPS by an agency count as outward migration.

"As you talk about all these people moving in, you have to remember those that are leaving and why they're leaving and where they're going," Reep said. "Dropouts and early graduation account for 8.5 percent of students leaving the district. Early graduation -- we celebrate that. Dropouts, not so much. But when you're in this kind of an economy and large-paying jobs are available, dropout is an issue."

The place students come and go from has changed dramatically as young families are drawn to Dickinson because of the oil boom.

"Last year was the most mobile that this district has ever been," Reep said. "We had 1,078 students that either came to our district or left our district compared to 960 the previous year."

In the last five years, students have left DPS for 25 North Dakota cities and more than 30 states. Dickinson lost more students to Bismarck than any other in-state transfer and to Montana for out-of state transfers.

"The most active state for inward migration this year was Washington," Reep said. "We're still in a state of 'churn' as the demographers call it, and expect to continue that."

The majority of students transferring into DPS from inside the state came from Bismarck over the last five years, though students have transferred here from more than 30 North Dakota cities.

More students have come from Colorado over the past five years than any other state, but more than 35 states were considered home before families moved to Dickinson.

"With people coming in, you would see a handful -- mostly from the surrounding schools and a couple odd (places) -- where, almost in your mind, you could place which family came from Washington, as an example, because it was so unusual," Board President Kris Fehr said.

There are also students who have transferred from other countries.

Thirty-seven students have transferred from Mexico in the last five years, Reep said.

"It used to be a student from another country was an exchange student," Fehr said. "And there were two or three."

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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