Dickinson Public Schools’ enrollment has increased by 119 students, which comes primarily from the elementary schools. Both of the middle and high schools’ enrollment rates have remained flat, according to Interim Superintendent Marcus Lewton as noted in his report to the school board on Monday.
“Those are pretty hard numbers to adapt to, but we’re doing what we can to support those teachers,” Lewton added.
Though it is difficult to say what is exactly causing the enrollment increase, DPS kindergarten class alone for the 2021-2022 school year is up to 380 students as compared to 280 in May.
"Our increase this year is more in line with the DPS enrollment projections calculated using Stark County live births and the population of Dickinson. It is hard to pinpoint exactly why our enrollment decreased last year, but we are thrilled to have new and returning families join us," Lewton said. "We have hired additional staff to alleviate crowded classrooms, and we are building capacity where we can."
Lewton also noted that he has been working with stakeholders in the community on Dickinson’s COVID-19 environment. He added that he hopes parents, “take mitigation strategies as possible (by) vaccinations, encouraging mask wearing if appropriate (and) sanitation.”
“I’ve noticed that people are keeping their kids home if there’s an illness in the family or whatnot. So that’s a good thing I need to commend them,” Lewton said. “That’s part of our continuity plan. There’s a lot of responsibility put on the individual families, so thanks to families for doing that.”
Currently, 17 staff members are out sick, which includes individuals who have tested positive for the coronavirus or who have been in close-contact with individuals having COVID-19. On the enrollment side, there were 102 students out sick on Sept. 10. In 2020, DPS had 15 staff members out and 128 students at the same time as last week.
“I would say one thing we didn’t do last year is we didn’t keep track of individual positives versus close contacts — the reason people were out is that they are just out. So that’s all we can compare to right now, but I would say probably I’m seeing more positives in students and in staff,” Lewton added.
By the end of October, Lewton said that DPS should have a rough draft of a “long-range facility planning process” as well as continuing to expand its virtual academy and the services it provides to those distant learners.