Williston Schools Preparing for Huge Enrollment | VideoEvan Kruegel | 7/31/2012
"Two years ago we added 150 students, last year we added 300. This year we were anticipating anywhere between 600 to 1200 based on housing that was available," said Superintendent Viola LaFontaine.
High School enrollment is up five percent, and middle school enrollment is holding steady. But an astonishing amount of students are enrolling in the lower grades, enrollment in the first grade alone is up 30 percent.
School starts in just a few weeks. Thirty percent growth might sound outrageous for any other school district, but for Williston, it`s actually a bit of a relief.
"I think that`s the hardest thing with the growth we`re having, is that everything is just happening so fast that you`re continuously trying to problem solve. Make decisions, deal with things we`ve never dealt with before, and actually deal with the unknown. So we`re doing our best to be prepared for we don`t know how many students, but I would rather be prepared and not have the overflow, than to not have done what we have done to get prepared," said LaFontaine.
Even though enrollment numbers are lower than expected, the growth is still taxing. The district has had to re-open an elementary school that was closed years ago, add 32 modular classrooms and hire 48 new teachers to deal with the anticipated growth.
"I know the oil companies are paying millions of tax dollars going to the state, and I believe our district and our community is the one having to deal with the growth because of the oil production. When I do talk to the oil companies I always say, `Do you want your future workers to be in a classroom where there were 40 kids, and say somebody missed a math problem, and now they are working on your oil rig?` We want quality, educated children as young adults," said LaFontaine.
Enrollment numbers should continue to increase in the next few weeks, but for now, the district is confident it will be prepared.