Fewer students at JPS

Enrollment figures at Jamestown Public Schools are down slightly this year, officials said, whereas figures at other schools in town, and possibly the state, are up.

Enrollment figures at Jamestown Public Schools are down slightly this year, officials said, whereas figures at other schools in town, and possibly the state, are up.

JPS' unofficial enrollment tally was 2,140 students as of the first Friday of school. Administrators take the official count on the third Friday of the school year, which will be Sept. 10. This year's unofficial total is down about 25 students from the 2,165 students enrolled last year, or a little more than 1 percent, said Bob Toso, superintendent.

"It's (enrollment) a snapshot on any given day. It changes," he said.

The current classes of fourth- and fifth-graders are relatively small: the district only has seven sections of each, he said. But the district has eight sections of kindergarten through third-graders. As those students age, enrollment could likely increase throughout the district.

"Overall, I feel like our enrollment is leveling off," Toso said, saying recently, enrollment was down 80 students in a given year.


At St. John's Academy in Jamestown, enrollment is up due in part to a record-setting kindergarten class. This year, 176 students are enrolled in kindergarten through sixth grade compared to 163 last year. Thirty-three kindergarteners enrolled this year compared to 23 last year, according to figures from St. John's.

Enrollment is up one student at Hillcrest Elementary School. Twenty students are enrolled there this year compared to 19 last year. In the 2008-2009 school year, 12 students had enrolled, said Carol Toay, principal and fifth- through eighth-grade teacher.

"It's just been increasing, slowly," she said.

Toay said she believes younger generations of parents are more interested in giving their children a private education.

Other parents may be interested in the religious aspect of education and choosing to home school instead. Rebecca Nyberg, home school coordinator for the Jamestown area, said she's seen an increase in interest in the home school's local social group.

It's hard to track if more families chose to home school because students are only required to register in the second through 10th grades due to age.

"I do think more students are being home-schooled, but I can't know that," Nyberg said.

Some families choose to home school because they can give students a more conservative, Bible-based education rather than the more liberal education given in public schools, she said. Others choose home-schooling to give students more one-on-one instruction.


Statewide, the Department of Public Instruction expects a small increase in enrollment, said Jerry Coleman, director of school finance. The increases are expected in larger cities as well as oil-producing counties, he said.

DPI won't release official numbers for at least another month.

"We're in the process of collecting that information now," Coleman said.

North Dakota witnessed a free-fall decline throughout the past 15 years, he said. But as of 2001, birth rates here were up. Those children are now elementary students, accounting for the steadying, and possibly even increasing, enrollment figures.

In Jamestown, Toso said he expects future enrollment to grow in part because of the city's healthy economy and also because of a recent influx of Somali immigrants.

So far, at least 20 Somali families have moved here, according to the Stutsman County Housing Authority. More than 500 have applied for housing.

Eleven Somali students have enrolled at Jamestown Public Schools. Since additional families may move here, Toso said the district may see an increase in students from Somali families.

Average class size across the district is about 20 students per teacher.


JPS hasn't had to add or reduce teachers due to student needs, Toso said. If the district does need to reduce staff because of declining enrollment, it will likely reduce through attrition.

Sun reporter Katie Ryan-Anderson can be reached at 701-952-8454 or by e-mail at

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