JPS enrollment: District down 47 students this year from lastThe enrollment numbers are in for the Jamestown Public Schools and they continue to drop after the 2011-2012 school year saw a slight increase. “The numbers are a lot better than we were a few years ago, when we were 80 to 100 students down every year, that’s when we were taking hits,” said JPS Superintendent Bob Toso.
By: Ben Rodgers, The Jamestown Sun
The enrollment numbers are in for the Jamestown Public Schools and they continue to drop after the 2011-2012 school year saw a slight increase.
“The numbers are a lot better than we were a few years ago, when we were 80 to 100 students down every year, that’s when we were taking hits,” said JPS Superintendent Bob Toso.
The district lost 47 students for the 2012-2013 year, with enrollment totaling 2,130. From the 2001-2002 school year to the 2007-2008 school year the district lost 407 students.
The 2,130 student enrollment number is fairly close to what JPS will submit to the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction for foundation aid, Toso said.
This year the base foundation aid is $3,980 per student. But a number of factors determine the final amount JPS will receive.
The district reached its most recent peak for students during the 1997-1998 school year when it had 2,911 students. Since then, with the exception of 2011-2012 — when it gained three students — the district has been losing students every year.
“I keep thinking every year this is going to be the year where we’re growing and we haven’t hit that spot yet, but it’s going to come,” Toso said.
This year ninth grade has the most students enrolled with 188. Overall the high school lost 29 students from 2011-2012.
“I actually thought the high school would be about even, but we were down a little bit,” Toso said.
A number of factors play in student enrollment.
First, enrollment is a constantly evolving figure changing every day. Students always enter or leave the district, Toso said.
Secondly, the numbers from last year include 13 Even Start students. Even Start was a pre-kindergarten program the district chose not to continue once federal funding ran out.
Even Start students were considered in the enrollment totals previously, but no foundation aid was given to the district for them. Minus Even Start, JPS lost 33 students in 2012-2013.
Third, students leave for a variety of reasons. Toso said the most common is families moving away.
“Society is pretty mobile especially — when kids are younger — families tend to move more,” he said.
The district also loses students to open enrollments and waiver of tuition requests. However, students also enter the district via those methods, so Toso said the numbers are “pretty static.”
St. John’s Academy, a private school, also has 178 students enrolled in K-6, with 28 in pre-kindergarten and 45 in preschool, or Kid’s Kingdom. Most of those students will eventually enter the Jamestown Public School District by seventh grade at least.
Moreover, in Jamestown 65 students are homeschooled in K-12 this year. But a number of those only take one or two classes at home. In order for JPS to receive full foundation aid a student must be enrolled in four year-long classes.
“Since I got here in the last 15 years, homeschooling has seen a significant growth throughout North Dakota,” Toso said.
He does, though, see growth on the horizon for JPS.
The district is seeing more students in kindergarten and first grade. If high numbers in elementary schools continue the district will eventually gain more students.
In 2011-2012 JPS added another section of kindergarten for the 179 students enrolled. That extra section moved to the first grade with the same class.
While more young students now could potentially mean more students in general later, outside factors could also come into play.
“… The development at Spiritwood Station, SEPA (Spiritwood Energy Park Association), that’s going to have huge implications for Jamestown Public Schools,” Toso said.
Last week the announcement was made that a $1.2 billion fertilizer plant is planned to be built 10 miles east of Jamestown. The plant could bring in anywhere from 100 to 150 well-paying jobs.
It could also bring in about 2,000 construction workers for three years while it is being built.
On top of that, additional industrial development is also possible, Toso said.
“We’re going to have to take a look at future growth because at our elementary schools we’ve been able to keep the class sizes small,” he said. “If we’re going to continue to do that we have to manage the growth that’s going to be coming.”
Sun reporter Ben Rodgers can be reached at 701-952-8455 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org