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School Board hears report on projected enrollment

The new enrollment projections are complex but accurate and show stability, according to a report heard by the Jamestown Public School Board on Monday.

The new enrollment projections are complex but accurate and show stability, according to a report heard by the Jamestown Public School Board on Monday.

Robert Schwarz, principal planner with RSP & Associates LLC in Kansas, was present to discuss the report in terms of changes in projected enrollment at Jamestown Public Schools along with capacity and development. He said the new report shows the previous 2014-15 enrollment projections were 99.1 percent accurate for middle school, 94.2 percent for the elementary school and 98.6 percent for the high school and school district overall.

"There were slight but not drastic changes," Schwarz said.

K-12 student enrollment is 2,203 in 2016-17 with a capacity of 2,390, according to the study. Enrollment is expected to increase 2 percent to 2,247 students by the 2021-22 school year.

There were 212 children who entered kindergarten in 2015 and around 150 in 2016-17, he said. The economy was a factor in higher growth projections in the 2014-15 report that did not materialize, but at the same time he said the number of births in the school district remained stable.

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Robert Lech, superintendent of Jamestown Public School District, said the key information from the presentation was the accuracy of the 2015 projections was strong at the middle school level but showed a drop in kindergarten enrollment. There are more options for students in kindergarten through sixth grade with private schools that are not available when they begin attending middle school, he said.

"What I see gives me a great great deal of confidence in the projections," Lech said.

School formula funding is based on student numbers and has a huge financial impact, he said. To be growing even a little bit is a positive, he said.

"I think the value comes from the fact that we are stable and slightly growing," Lech said.

The data shows there are natural decreases as opposed to external causes for enrollment, and Jamestown is growing slower than other cities in North Dakota, Schwarz said. He said city officials are confident in attracting industry that will produce jobs that bring people with families.

Nationally, millennials are showing less tendencies to purchase cars and homes than previous generations because of accruing large education-related debt, he said. Attracting young families to Jamestown will depend more on economic conditions and jobs, he said.

If the kindergarten enrollment stays in the 150 to 170 range then the school district should continue to remain stable, he said. If the numbers dip below 150 then it will be possible that the projections are overstated.

In other business, the School Board unanimously approved a request from Pingree-Buchanan Public Schools to withdraw from James Valley Career and Technology Center. The school district will withdraw following the 2018-19 school year.

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The Career and Technology Center is a collaboration between Jamestown, Pingree-Buchanan and Montpellier school districts, Lech said. It was not known at the meeting how many Pingree-Buchanan students are enrolled in James Valley Career and Technology Center but the per-student fee basis totals around $30,000, he said.

The larger issue is losing status as a career and technology center by falling to fewer than three members, which is around a $170,000 loss per year from the state, he said. Work has already started to identify other school districts that want to partner, he said.

"We are in preliminary discussions as this is a sudden development," Lech said.

In other business, the School Board:

• approved adding a soccer program and coaches into the co-curricular committee recommended additions of the middle school baseball and softball programs and coaches. School Board member Jennifer Schmidt voted no.

• approved summer projects and the 2017 salary and fee schedule for summer school.

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