As if the beginning of the school year weren’t hectic enough for employees of Havre Public Schools, Superintendent Andy Carlson said at Tuesday’s school board meeting that the staff at Highland Park Early Primary School may end up with more on their hands than anticipated, with more than 60 unexpected kindergartners.
Carlson told the board that during planning the district had thought it would have 111 kids enrolled in kindergarten this year. Now, the week before classes kick off, it has more than 175 registered.
“Based upon what we have had in the past we thought we were going to be fine, but the numbers just keep increasing, ” Carlson said. “It’s a good problem to have. ”
The increase being in kindergarten is preferable, Carlson said, because Highland Park can handle it because of recent additions there.
That’s not to say there won’t have to be some accomodations made. Assuming all of those kids show up on Monday, the school will have to hire a new teacher and move the computer lab to an old locker room to make room. But Carlson said if this increase had happened in either Lincoln-McKinley Primary or Sunnyside Intermediate schools, the district would have more difficulty in dealing with it.
Though if the class is that big, and stays that big for two years, they will will be in Lincoln-McKinley in no time. Carlson said he and the district’s clerk, Mike Arnold, are already writing up planning grants to look at what can be done in those schools.
As is, however, the school is so full that they are having to turn away students that want to cross district lines to attend.
“If students want to come here, that’s great, ” Carlson said. “But when it gets to a point that we would have to add personnel then by policy we deny their entrance. It’s the first time since I’ve been around that we’ve had this problem. ”
Another problematic side to the flood of children entering the school is that their funding is determined by the prior year’s enrollment figures, so the district has to teach more kids on outdated fund amounts.
Carlson said that staff didn’t have an explanation for the surge yet, and are waiting for the year to start to talk to the parents of newly enrolled students to get an idea of where they are coming from.
The incoming kindergarten class at St. Jude Thaddeus School is not experiencing the same phenomenon, but they haven’t dropped that much either. This year St. Jude's has 20 students enrolled, a bit less than last year’s 23.
Carlson said he’s excited to see what ends up happening and is confident in the district’s ability to handle whatever is thrown at it.
“If we get too big, I don’t know what we’ll do, but we’ll make it happen, ” Carlson said.