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Enrollment numbers are looking strong for Perham

Higher-than-expected enrollment of kindergarten and first grade students has led the Perham-Dent School Board to approve the hire of two new elementary school teachers.

According to Heart of the Lakes Elementary School Principal Jennifer Hendrickson, 88 children were registered for kindergarten as of last week, and 92 were registered for first grade.

These numbers were greater than predicted, and necessitate the addition of a fifth class for each grade level.

“Eighty-five has always been our magic number where we add the fifth section” in order to keep classes from having more than 20 children each, Superintendent Mitch Anderson said at a school board meeting last week.

In a follow-up email to the Focus, he later explained that, “We put an emphasis on keeping class sizes under 20 at the primary levels. While the higher numbers is a good problem to have, it certainly adds to an already stressful time of the year. However, in the end, we do what is best for the kids. Class sizes of 17 to 18 are much better for our kids than 22 to 23.”

Although overall enrollment won’t be known for sure until the first day of class, that number may increase as well, Anderson said in a later interview.

The 2012-2013 school year ended with about 1,341 students.

“We’ve generally been in that range for the last few years,” said Anderson. “A lot of new families have been coming in and registering. But, we’re also the last to know when someone moves. So, we’re planning on stable, hoping for an increase.”

In all, 33 new staff members have been hired to fill various positions within the district this year, it was reported at the meeting, and four more positions are still in the process of being filled, including the two newly approved elementary teachers.

The hiring process for these additional teachers began immediately after the positions were approved last week.

In other business, the school board:

-Heard a report by Activities Director Erin Anderson on the progress of the high school’s new REACH program (Responsibility, Education, Accountability, Character, Hard work).

“I’m just really excited to see this accountability program and the pieces of what we’re doing here to build success for the kids and get them walking across the stage at graduation,” he said.

REACH is an elective class which is available for students. It will feature a special career-focused day once a week.

-Created two READ 180 classes, one of seventh and one of eighth grade students, to assist students whose reading skills are somewhat behind. Prairie Wind Middle School Principal Scott Bjerke plans to present progress updates throughout the year.

-Got on update on Youthbuild’s second house, which has been sold and the purchase will be finalized soon. The plan is to move forward on the third house, which will be located next to the second.

Elizabeth Huwe