Enrollment growth in Williston Public School District

issues of increased enrollment and a lack of classroom space

Enrollment growth in Williston Public School District No. 1 means classes are getting larger, something the school board is considering addressing with two new elementary schools.

A meeting scheduled for 4 to 8 p.m. today at Bakken Elementary will give the public a look at what the district has been looking at, as well as the reasoning behind the proposal.

The two major goals of the process are to explain to the public the issues facing the district, especially increased enrollment and a lack of classroom space, and get feedback about the proposal to build new schools where Rickard and Wilkinson elementaries are located, according to Nick Lippert with JLG Architects, which has been working with the district on the planning process.

“This is about having an open dialogue with the community,” Lippert said.

The meeting will be set up more like an open house, he said, with nine stations for the public to visit. The stations will include information about enrollment growth, school capacity, and the proposal JLG made to build two elementary schools, and it will offer a chance for the public to give their thoughts on what the district should do.

Consultants from JLG highlighted two proposals at November’s school board meeting. The first, which would cost about $66 million, was to build two new elementary schools. The other, building the two new schools and an addition to Williston High School, would cost about $76 million.

The plan presented by JLG aimed to get the district close to an enrollment of 5,200, or about 400 students each in grades kindergarten through 12. The current enrollment is about 4,100, up from slightly more than 3,800 last year.

That has led to an average class size in kindergarten through fourth grade of about 24 students. Kindergarten has the highest average class size at nearly 27, and the largest kindergarten classroom in the district has 31 students.

Another effect of increased enrollment has been that the district has had to use more portable classrooms. Both proposals from JLG would limit, but not entirely eliminate, the number of portable classrooms needed, according to the report consultants gave in November.

Today’s meeting is the first of three public sessions planned, Lippert said. The other two haven’t been scheduled yet, but will likely take place in late January and late February.

JLG and the district will revise the proposals based on public feedback.

“It’s really about that public input,” he said.