September 10, 2015

Population boom finally catches up with New Town Schools


By Jerry W. Kram

Since 2007 and the birth of the Bakken Boom, most schools in western North Dakota have faced a flood of new students, most notably in Watford City which is likely to be boosted from the ranks of Class B schools to Class A next year. But that rising tide has largely missed New Town as student numbers stayed stable through the end of 2013.

But starting in the 2014-15 school year, the New Town School District saw indications that the dam holding back an influx of new students was about to burst in 2015-16. The first indication was in the elementary school. At the beginning of the 2012-13 school year, there were 368 children attending Edwin Loe Elementary school. The following year, that number increased to 412. This year, the number of children has mushroomed to 467. That is a 26 percent increase in two years.

Superintendent Marc Bluestone said it is normal for the number of students in New Town to fluctuate for the few weeks of school. He told the school board he will have a firm grasp on the number of students by the end of the month.

"We’re up about 70 kids, but I always wait until September to see what the tale of the tape is going to be," Bluestone said. "But we are busting at the seams in a few grade levels. But we are what we are in regard to the number of teachers we have and the student-teacher ratios."

The Middle School and High School are experiencing similar growth. There are 220 middle school students in grades 6-8. There are 209 students attending New Town High School. Bluestone said the district should be eligible for the state of North Dakota’s rapid enrollment program, which designates extra funds to any school district that see’s enrollment rise by more than 10 percent a year.

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