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Keeping up with students could be challenge

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Dickinson Public Schools could need more classrooms by fall 2010 and school officials will look into alternatives to accommodate an increasing number of students.

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Members discussed potential problems that may occur from the increase at Tuesday's school board meeting, board.

Superintendent Paul Stremick, reported the district anticipates about 230 kindergarten students next year which will require at least 11 sections of kindergarten.

"It's very likely that kindergarten at the start of next year will be the largest class in the district," Stremick said. "That is good news. The bad news is right now, if we look at adding eight sections of fifth grade in the district and 11 sections of kindergarten, technically every classroom would be full in the district."

The number of expected kindergarten students are based on birth rates from St. Joseph's Hospital, said Vince Reep, business manager and director of personnel for Dickinson Public Schools.

While classrooms could be found here and there, Stremick said, when looking at the big picture, two more will likely be needed.

"I don't know if we could even squeeze two out if we re-do some things," Stremick said. "If we add any more sections in some of our buildings that we don't have enough time for specialist time, like music, physical education, things of that nature."

The district would have to double up on electives or hire additional staff, he said.

School authorities will look into five options: an all-inclusive school; a new elementary, sister schools (which would house all kindergarten through second grade students), moving fifth grade to Berg Elementary and the addition of wings on some schools.

Public forums should be a part of the solution, said board member Mitzi Swenson.

"I'd like to see it all on the table with some sense of dollars attached. I think the board needs some time to digest it," she said. "We are going to have to have a community forum, people and parents whose children are going to be affected have to have some say."

Stremick and Reep said they will look at the five options more closely and bring information to the next board meeting.

In other matters:

Board members unanimously approved a memorandum of understanding between the school and Dickinson Diamonds Fast-pitch Softball Club.

The Club agrees to pay for all expenses not related to coaching salaries.

The next board meeting is at 5 p.m., May 11, at the Central Administration Building.

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