DHS to have highest enrollment ever in 2019

Dickinson High School Assistant Principal Jay Hepperle created a projection of DHS enrollment in future years based only on the number of students currently enrolled in the Dickinson Public Schools district. (Jay Hepperle / Dickinson High School)

Although the enrollment period for the upcoming school year has not ended, Dickinson High School has already surpassed its highest enrollment number ever - 1,041 - which it reached in 1982.

The school currently has 1,059 students enrolled, which could be even higher by the end of the enrollment period. Of those kids, 275 are freshman, 292 are sophomores, 253 are juniors and 239 are seniors.

"We can make it through this year. I don't know what level of comfort that's at, because we're just at the point now where we're getting because that space is a huge need," said Jay Hepperle, assistant principal at DHS.

Classes are being stretched to and past their limits, with Principal Kevin Hoherz counting 128 classes that have either reached or surpassed their recommended number of students. Several of the school's core classes have 28-30 pupils.

"The first question we're going to have to ask is when are we going to add staff. When is the class size big enough? Then the second question is when we add those staff members, where are we going to put them?" Hoherz said.


To accommodate the high volume of students, the school will have three floating teachers during the first semester and four floating teachers the second semester, not counting special education.

"The school was set up so that a teacher ... their room is their planning space, but we don't have teachers' rooms as planning space anymore because we have floating teachers who have to occupy that space," Hepperle said. " ... We have teachers that have preps in the teachers' lounge that are sitting there with a computer or be sitting in one of the pod offices if it's not occupied."

Because of the lack of space, they have had to be creative with scheduling, making sure every available space is used efficiently.

"The things that we could do to become more efficient, we are doing," Hepperle said. " ... We take rooms that typically were used for we'll just say, things like ISS or ALC, and all of a sudden those rooms have to be more than just one thing because we need space. We're looking at making every room that's in this building a room that a teacher could walk into and teach a class."

Hepperle said that's one of the reasons they became a 1:1 technology school. They will use less space for storing copiers, paper and computers.

"When you look at 1:1 ... any space that a kid can be in with a computer and a teacher is a learning space," he said.

The lack of space affects not only the learning environment but what type of instruction can take place.

"Our number one priority is how are we going to create, within what we currently have, space that is adequate for the learning that needs to happen today. The more you shrink that space down, the more options get shrunk down of what teachers can do in classrooms. The kinds of things that we know really help engage kids and facilitate learning better, we start to lose those opportunities as that space gets smaller and smaller," Hepperle said.


It also makes offering supports and special services to students more difficult.

"We know with behavioral health ... kids need a safe space ... to go and feel safe and calm down, and when you start to say we don't have any of that space available because that space is classroom space ... it starts to put a strain on a lot of the levels of support that we try to give kids," Hepperle said.

The special education department had a resource room that was sacrificed to make room for the addition of another teacher, Hoherz said, forcing those teachers to find and use a room that isn't occupied during that specific period.

Kayla Henson is a former Dickinson Press reporter.
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