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North Dakota

Enrollment at McKenzie County School District is still rising



Watford City, North Dakota – McKenzie County is seeing an increase in the number of families residing there, which is boosting the district’s enrollment figures.

Superintendent of the McKenzie County School system Steve Holen reports that the system now has 2,120 pupils, more than 100 of whom are new this year. Last year, the district had more than 2,000 students. McKenzie County had a little over 500 students before the oil boom.

“Our enrollment numbers are good, there’s a challenge obviously finding teaching staff, which is getting more and more challenging every year, but for the most part, we’re in a good spot. We’re happy with it,” said Holen.

The majority of the expansion is in the lower grades, where Fox Hills Elementary and Badlands Elementary together have over 1,000 students enrolled. Because there are fewer elementary teachers than he would want, Holen said, class sizes are higher than he would like.

“We would take another four or five elementary teachers right now if we could,” said Holen.

According to Holen, they are looking at interventionists and instructional coaches to fill in the gaps as a result of Governor Doug Burgum’s executive order. For the future, Holen says, they want to concentrate on developing educators internally.

“We’re looking at some of our paraprofessionals trying to see if they are interested in becoming classroom teachers. I think a lot of people realize the answer is within, we just need more people in our community and our school systems that aren’t licensed and try to get them licensed,” said Holen.

According to a February enrollment assessment, if growth continues, elementary school capacity may be exceeded as early as 2025. According to Holen, their largest issue is staffing rather than capacity.