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Good help wanted: Dickinson Public to add classrooms, teachers as it continues to grow

By Katherine Grandstrand on Jan 16, 2014 at 11:22 p.m.

In order to accommodate growth within its district, Dickinson Public Schools is planning to add at least five more teaching positions and is replacing all retiring and leaving teachers.

But to do that, the district has had to ramp up its teacher recruitment plans throughout the Upper Midwest. Superintendent Doug Sullivan and Assistant Superintendent Vince Reep said they plan to attend job fairs in nearby states to help find new teachers.

“We’re going to start the hiring process right away in February and probably continue all the way through spring until we fill all these positions,” Reep said.

Elementary teachers will be needed in all buildings in the 2014-15 school year, and additional teachers will be needed at Hagen Junior High and Dickinson High School to meet the needs of older students.

“We would like to hire a math teacher for Hagen and a math teacher for the high school, a social studies teacher at Hagen, a language arts teacher at the high school,” Reep said. “We might have a combination social studies and phys. ed need. We’ve got lots of openings that we’ve been advertising.”

Hagen has roughly 450 combined students in the seventh- and eighth-grades, but the school is projected to host more than 500 next school year, Reep said.

“They’re extremely hurting for space there,” Reep said. “Some of those kids will have class at Berg (Elementary) across the street. We already do that now, but more of them will.”

It didn’t house fifth grade in its first year but Prairie Rose Elementary will be adding three fifth-grade classrooms and a second grade, Principal Sherry Libis said. The school was designed to hold 18 total classrooms — three of each grade from kindergarten through fifth.

There were 13 classroom teachers at the school this year and there will be at least 16 next year. They will add a second-grade teacher and three fifth-grade teachers, but possibly lose a fourth-grade position — meaning one of the fourth-grade teachers will either move up with the fifth grade or down to the second.

“A lot depends on where our enrollment falls this fall,” Libis said.

Enrollment doesn’t stop when the school year starts, either.

Prairie Rose began the year with more than 260 students and has added about 20 throughout the year, Libis said.

“We’ve had kids move out, but it seems that we definitely are getting more kids moving in than moving out,” Libis said.

There has been a lot of growth in kindergarten over the years and the district expects that the 2014-15 school year won’t buck the trend, Reep said. Kindergarten registration is the first week of February. Once completed, school officials will know how many more kindergarten teachers they’ll need.

“We know that we’re going to have to add kindergarten teachers,” Reep said. “We’re really crowded right now in kindergarten. Our average class size in kindergarten currently is 23 per room. We would like to get that down to 20 or under.”

The district could add as many as 12 classrooms in the next school year, Reep said. In addition, the district is expecting a few retirements and teachers leaving.

At Dickinson Public Schools, some teachers have had to leave the district because a spouse’s energy job forced them to leave Dickinson, Reep said.

The lack of availability of affordable housing has become a hurdle when recruiting teachers, Reep said.

“Every year when we do conduct job interviews that is now an interview question: ‘Have you checked into housing in Dickinson,’” Reep said. “It is an issue. It’s hard, especially for beginning teachers.”

The Patterson Heights apartments on Dickinson’s west side were built specifically to house public servants, Reep said. If space is available and income guidelines are met, teachers, police and other government workers can live there.

Dickinson Catholic Schools, while growing, has not experienced the type of explosive growth that Dickinson Public Schools has and will not need to add positions to accommodate its modest growth, Trinity High School Principal Tom Sander said. It’s too early for teachers to submit their resignations, so the district does not know how many new teachers it will need to fill vacated positions.

In addition to full-time teachers, the district is looking for substitutes, Reep said.

While individuals with a background in teaching are preferred, anyone with at least an associate’s degree or equivalent coursework, with a few restrictions, can apply for a substitute teaching license in the state of North Dakota.

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