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Sullivan: Dickinson schools growing fast

Doug Sullivan

The new school year began on Aug. 21 and I would like to welcome all students and parents to the new school year.

It was an active and busy summer in the school district and there are some exciting developments in the Dickinson Public Schools that I would like to share with the community.

With the arrival of new students and a large kindergarten class, enrollment continues to increase in the school district. As of Aug. 22, the total enrollment in the school district was 3,184 students. This number represents an increase of 193 in the K-6 grades, an increase of 37 in grades 7-8 and an increase of 94 students at Dickinson High School. These numbers represent a total increase of 318 students across the district.

Additionally, the kindergarten class this year is the largest class in the school district since 1989 with an enrollment of 289 students. In the last three years, the district has seen an increase of 559 students. Within this growth, 75 percent has been in the K-6 grades.

The school district has adequate space to accommodate this number of students. The average class sizes in the elementary grades are 22-23 in K-2, 24 in grade 3, 26 in grade 4 and 24-27 in grades 5-6. The new elementary school, Prairie Rose Elementary, is providing service to 279 students.

In 2011-12, Dickinson was considered the third-fastest growing small city in the United States.

Dickinson's estimated current population is around 25,000. NDSU estimates Dickinson's population may reach 47,000 by the year 2022. If these numbers come to fruition, it will continue to present challenges for the school district to accommodate increasing student enrollment.

Consequently, the school district has recently interviewed for the services of a facility planner to develop a long-range facility plan for the school district.

Through community engagement, this process will hopefully position the school district to provide appropriate facilities for the students in the upcoming years. It is likely the school district will need to add additional classroom space or renovate existing facilities to meet enrollment growth in the coming years.

When this process begins, the school board is hopeful the community will be deeply involved in the process. This will help to guarantee the school district is providing services and facilities the community desires and supports. Parental and community involvement will be crucial to guaranteeing the plan represents the desires.

When considering parental involvement in education, it is also important for parents to be involved in their child's school throughout the school year. Please remember that each school building in the district operates a Parent Advisory Council (PAC).

The PAC is designed to encourage parental engagement in the schools and district. The PAC provides information for parents that attend the monthly meetings. Additionally, the PAC members assist with various activities and events in the schools that are designed to benefit the students and staff. The PAC is a crucial element of the district's effort to provide information and communicate with its constituents. I encourage parents to visit with the building principal to identify when the meetings occur and become involved in the PAC.

Sullivan is the superintendent of Dickinson Public Schools.

If you have any questions about these topics or any other issue in the school district, contact him

at 701-456-0002 or