South Heart receives aid for student enrollment growthBISMARCK — State officials agreed Thursday to provide $240,000 to help with expected student enrollment growth in South Heart, but the school’s superintendent said the grant is significantly less than he was expecting.
BISMARCK — State officials agreed Thursday to provide $240,000 to help with expected student enrollment growth in South Heart, but the school’s superintendent said the grant is significantly less than he was expecting.
South Heart Public Schools asked the Board of University and School Lands for $690,000 to help cover the costs of adding bathrooms and six portable classrooms to its elementary wing by this fall.
The total estimated cost of the project is nearly $863,000, which includes buying desks and classroom supplies, technology costs and site construction costs.
Seventy percent of the new students that have enrolled in the district in the past two years have been elementary students, Superintendent Riley Mattson wrote in the school’s grant application.
“The employees that are being hired in the energy sector are the twenty something’s [sic] and the early thirty something’s [sic] and what they are looking for is housing,” he wrote. “South Heart is going to be able to accommodate for them, so this is going to bring young families and children to the area.”
The district doesn’t know how many new students it may have by the fall but wanted to be prepared as housing in the area continues to develop, Mattson said Thursday.
“It’s really all just a throw the ball up in the air and hopefully we can catch it,” he said.
The Board of University and School Lands decided to use $5 million from the oil and gas impact fund to help rapidly-growing Oil Patch schools fund temporary K-8 portable classrooms.
The board awarded $3 million to Williston Public Schools last month. Superintendent Viola LaFontaine anticipates the district will grow by 800 to 1,200 students next fall.
On Thursday, the board allocated the remaining $2 million among South Heart, Tioga, Powers Lake, McKenzie County and District 8 in Williams County. District 8 received $1.35 million of the funding.
A variety of factors went into deciding how to distribute the money, said Gerry Fisher, assistant director of the Energy Infrastructure and Impact Office. These include projected enrollment increases, financial need, and oil and gas development/production statistics.
South Heart gave projections for how many students it expects to add in the next two to three years but didn’t say what next year’s numbers are expected to be, Fisher said
Mattson said students come and go on a weekly and monthly basis, and it’s difficult to plan and provide enrollment estimates.
“We know it’s going to grow, but we just don’t know how much,” he said. “It all depends on housing and the housing that comes in.”
Enrollment at the end of the 2010-11 school year was 208 and rose to 231 by the fall, he said.
“Are we going to get 23 again this summer? I don’t know. Are we going to get 50? I don’t know,” Mattson said.
Mattson, who is working on the district’s budget, didn’t know Thursday how the district would proceed with the grant money. The district may need to consider four portable classrooms instead of six, he said.
“We’ll have to put some dollar figures together and see what the cost is per month and over a school year to see if that’s affordable and we go from there, I guess,” he said.
Even with the uncertainty, Mattson said he prefers growing enrollment to declining enrollment.
“Hopefully we can be close to the mark when the time comes, get our kids educated and provide the best educational environment for them,” he said.
Finneman is a multimedia reporter for Forum Communications Co.