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Lewton: Hagen faces challenges in coming years

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opinion Dickinson, 58602

Dickinson North Dakota 1815 1st Street West 58602

Editor’s Note: This is the first of three monthly columns from Marcus Lewton about Hagen Junior High.

Hello, stakeholders of Dickinson Public Schools. My name is Marcus Lewton, and I am the principal at Hagen Junior High School. Dickinson Public Schools will be asking for a bond referendum on Oct. 7 to build a new middle school. I hope to help clarify a few of the reasons behind the public school’s request. I appreciate your interest and concern for the education of our children in the community of Dickinson.

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Humans have a difficult time with the uncertainties in life. I would wager that few things bring people stress more than the challenges that uncertainties bring. Challenges about careers, family, housing or even food plague some of our lives on a daily basis. The challenges that stress schools and primarily teachers in western North Dakota have recently become more of a daily occurrence.

Right now in Dickinson Public Schools we face many challenges on a daily basis. One large challenge teachers face today is simply having enough space in their classroom. Our teachers worry about teaching class sizes higher than they have taught before. The teachers at Hagen Junior High School struggle with the challenges that come with high class sizes and small classrooms, which were built 79 years ago for far fewer kids.

Five of the teachers at Hagen Junior High face the particular challenge of teaching off campus. During 21 classes each day this year, students and faculty will make the trek across the street to Berg Elementary. Starting next year, Berg will begin to need more of their own classrooms to address their own growth, meaning some of these classrooms will not be available.

Teachers constantly face the challenge of how to meet the high standards the public has and should place on their schools. Modern 21st century classrooms should not and do not look like they did 79 years ago. Teachers are expected and should be expected to provide more than just direct instruction. Students should be actively engaged in the learning process, which is more than sitting in a desk taking notes. This is more difficult to do with small classrooms, no large common areas and limited space, so it creates many challenges for our teachers.

Teachers are also concerned and worried about the number of students they will receive throughout the year. They worry about their students that come and even more when they go. The school counselor also has many challenges as these are the students that take hours and even days of work. Working out of little more than an old storage room, the counselor at Hagen this year will probably face many challenges about students and their well-being.

Principals also have challenges about which they constantly worry. For the principal and assistant principal at Hagen Junior High, they worry about having enough classroom space for their students. They worry about their teachers and the adversity they face in the small and crowded classroom. They worry about students in the packed hallways during passing time. They worry about students crossing the street and going to another building for classes. They worry about having enough room in the cafeteria, gymnasium and playground.

The good thing about educators is that they are great at facing challenges. I can’t help but think, however, about the rise in the number of challenges we will continue to face at Dickinson Public Schools. With school buildings such as Hagen that are too small and too outdated to address the needs of today’s students, the challenges will continue to mount.

Lewton is the principal at Hagen Junior High School, which serves approximately 510 seventh-and eighth-grade students in Dickinson.

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