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Children may switch schools

Dickinson Public Schools may look to move some elementary students to different schools next school year. During the oil boom there was such an influx of students that the district had to assign children to schools based on space rather than prox...

Dickinson Public Schools may move their elementary students to the school closest to their homes next fall, but the idea is still in its preliminary stages. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press.
Dickinson Public Schools may move their elementary students to the school closest to their homes next fall, but the idea is still in its preliminary stages. Photo by Ellie Potter/The Dickinson Press.

Dickinson Public Schools may look to move some elementary students to different schools next school year.

During the oil boom there was such an influx of students that the district had to assign children to schools based on space rather than proximity to the child's home, said DPS Board President Sarah Ricks. Now there are students within one school's domain that attend a different elementary, something the district's administration is contemplating ironing out for the 2017-2018 school year.

However, nothing has been decided, as the idea is still in its preliminary stages, she said.

Some parents have voiced their frustrations that their child is not attending the elementary closest to them, she said. Busing has also become a bit trickier as more students are now riding the bus to school.

"When you've got students who live in the same neighborhood but go to three different schools, that becomes very complicated busing wise," Ricks said.

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She praised the district's Assistant Superintendent, Vince Reep, for his job crunching the enrollment numbers but noted that the district is never certain how many students it will have year to year and in which grade levels.

"You can never predict with 100 percent accuracy what's going to happen," she said. "I mean over the summer, for example, this year we lost a whole bunch of students in the spring. Coming into the summer we didn't pick up as many as we thought we would, but then late summer and then into early fall we regained all the students that we had lost. And so it's fluid, and it's tricky, and there's a lot of moving parts to it."

District Superintendent Doug Sullivan said the decision would not be made for the next three months or so, but that the target date for its implementation, if enacted, would be for the fall of 2017.

The discussion involves both potentially moving students back to their intended attendance area, which grade levels would be affected and whether Berg Elementary will be open next year.

"We have a projected kindergarten class of 340 students, and so that's going to cause us some growth issues," Sullivan said. "So we need to determine where those students are going to be assigned, and so we just thought that in the process we would just take a look at the entire district as we prepare for next school year, and as we move forward with the decision about what to do with Berg or if it's going to open next year."

Moving students to the school nearest their homes would help the district to better manage the number of classrooms in each building, he said.

The district allows for open enrollment for some grade levels, which means that students from other schools may request to enroll in Dickinson Public Schools if they meet certain criteria. If enacted, these decisions would not affect those students, he said.

Ricks said she is confident that the people looking into the issue are doing the best they can.

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"But I think the bottom line is, right now, nothing is for sure, nothing is set in stone," Ricks said. "We're just having these conversations, and the community needs to be aware that there is a possibility that this will happen in the future, and it's probably going to be a little difficult for some people. Nobody wants to change schools... It's going to be hard for some people if and when the district goes that direction."

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