- Associated Press - Sunday, January 24, 2016

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) - School officials in Bismarck and Mandan expect student enrollment to continue growing despite a slowdown in oil production.

Planning firm RSP and Associates estimates that Bismarck Public Schools will exceed 14,200 students in four years. This school year started with 12,400 students enrolled in the district.

Bismarck Public Schools Superintendent Tamara Uselman told the Bismarck Tribune (https://bit.ly/23iGCPo ) that she doesn’t anticipate a reversal in the district’s continued growth, because there are still jobs in the patch and students moving to the area.

Rob Schwarz, CEO of RSP, said the region is slated for expansion in sectors such as the medical industry. He presented enrollment projections to the Bismarck school board in February 2015, and said he anticipates producing updated numbers next year.

Kindergarten enrollment and new development projects will indicate the possible pace of growth for the district, Schwarz said.

Assistant Superintendent Ben Johnson, who oversees secondary education, said he anticipates middle school enrollment seeing a big increase in middle school enrollment as elementary students who are new to the district get older.

Mandan Public School District Superintendent Mike Bitz said enrollment in Mandan has mirrored Bismarck Public Schools. He said the elementary schools are expected to gain 300 students in four years. Mandan Middle School is slated to increase by 100 students in three years.

Both districts are discussing how to accommodate the growth. Bismarck has opened two new elementary schools in the past two years, and the district is working to gather community input on accommodating growth.

Uselman said they’re discussing the merits of constructing more schools, such as another elementary or middle school. The district could also add on to its existing three middle schools.

A group of 75 parents has met to discuss Bismarck district growth three times this school year. Two public forums will be held this month.

Bitz said the Mandan district may need to consider a new school in the future if expected growth happens at the elementary level.

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