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Brookings Handling Record Number of Kindergartners

January 15, 2014, 9:51 PM by Hailey Higgins

Brookings Handling Record Number of Kindergartners

More people and more economic development are accelerating enrollment numbers in the Brookings School District, beyond administration expectations.

This year, a record number of kindergartners are enrolled forcing teachers to shuffle students between rooms and the school board is rethinking plans to accommodate the growth.

22 five and six-year-olds finish up a spelling lesson in Tonya Christianson's classroom at Medary Elementary.

The sheer number of students enrolling into the Brookings School District last fall caught administrators off guard, even though they were already expecting the largest-ever kindergarten class at 290 students.

Instead, 350 showed up on the first day of school.

"So that's accelerated the space crunch," School Board Vice President Steve Bayer said. "We had a space crunch to begin with."

Bayer says the district's youngest grades are growing so quickly, classrooms are bursting and more teachers have been hired to keep up.

To accommodate growth at Medary Elementary, they have seven kindergarten classes. In fact, one new teacher set up a classroom in the library.

In November, voters overwhelmingly approved a $15 million bond to build a new K-3 grade school in southwest Brookings. That building is expected to open in the fall of 2015 and will likely be at full capacity.

But in the meantime, the district is left wondering if the record enrollment is a sign of things to come.

"The biggest thing we need to figure out right now, and we'll know a little more as next fall rolls around, but is this a one-time blip or is this our new normal," Bayer said. "Are we going to be looking at classes of 350 plus on a regular basis?"

To accommodate the growth, hundreds of third graders are being taught in the district's intermediate school to make room for more kindergarten classes at the elementary.

Later this year, the district will add on four additional classrooms to the intermediate school.

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