After what seemed like a very unusual decrease in enrollment following the Sept. 20 Count Day, numbers continue to increase for Dodge City Public Schools.
"One of the things I knew about Dodge City was that the enrollment has historically increased every year," said Dr. Fred Dierksen, superintendent. "I was surprised to see we initially had 67 fewer students but that number continues to go up."
In the last month alone, the district has enrolled an additional 22 students — a trend that is expected to continue.
"From what I understand, that’s the norm," Dieksen said. "We’ll continue to have students enroll throughout the year."
For the 1997-1998 school year, Dodge City Public Schools had an enrollment of 5,254. Preliminary numbers for this year are at 7,192, while last year, USD 443 had 7,228 students. Projections are done to help determine future enrollment numbers and show almost 7,500 students by the 2019-2020 school year.
One of the buildings most in need of expansion is the high school. Dodge City High School currently has 1,823 students, with an additional 116 students in alternative programs. In 2011, that number was 1,772 and if estimates are correct, the school will have an enrollment of 2,584 by 2024.
"We’re so thankful for this community and its support," Dierksen said of the bond that passed in June 2015. "We’re in desperate need of additional space and thanks to the citizens, we’re getting it."
Comanche Middle School has an enrollment of 740 students, while Dodge City Middle School is at 748.
"We try really hard to keep those enrollment numbers close," Dierksen said. "We have a few transfer requests every year but it’s always very equal. We have the same number requesting one school as we do the other."
In 2010, the middle school had an enrollment of 1,285. By 2025, the combined enrollment numbers for the two middle schools is expected to hit almost 1,700 students. The current elementary school capacity is 3,256; however, enrollment in 2014-2015 was 3,256 and is expected to grow at a rate of 1.5 percent annually.
"Our average class size is right at 25," Dierksen said. "The bond projects will allow us to continue to grow and to offer a quality education to the students of Dodge City Public Schools."
Another trend the district is seeing is that while smaller classes are graduating, larger classes are coming in at the kindergarten level.
"Our junior class has 435 students but we have 580 enrolled in third grade and 555 first graders," Dierksen said. "As we graduate smaller classes, we replace them with much larger ones; making the new space crucial to the success of our district."