Moorhead schools open with peak enrollment

Nancy Edmonds Hanson

Moorhead’s public schools opened Monday at an all-time peak enrollment, Superintendent Brandon Lunak told the Moorhead Business Association Tuesday.

“We opened with 487 more students than last spring,” he told the group, “or 91 more than last year’s opening enrollment.” The number typically fluctuates over the first several months of classes. An official figure will be released in November.

All classes now number at least 500 students, he said. The 2022-23 kindergarten class, with 623 youngsters, is just two shy of the record-breaking contingent of 7th graders. He pointed out that today’s 7th graders started kindergarten at Probtfield School when it was pressed into service seven years ago as the district’s kindergarten center: “There were 604 of them back then, and we have 627 now.”

Lunak and Tom Dryburgh, the women’s basketball coach recently named professional outreach coordinator for the Career Academy, described the vision of “one school – two buildings” that has propelled the district into its multi-phase, five-year construction program. With the Career Academy now operating, public attention has turned to the first phase of the high school building’s replacement. Three classroom wings are under construction right now, along with a 3,000-seat gym and swimming pool. Lunak said teachers may move into their new classrooms over Christmas 2023.

Then what he suggests is the trickiest task begins: Tearing down the present high school building to make way for Phase Two. “There is only 3 feet between that and the new building,” he pointed out drily. “I’m glad I’m not in the construction industry myself.”

Looking toward changes in the curriculum and approach to career education, the superintendent said, “Our goal is to reimagine the high school experience.” He spoke of partnerships with business and industry throughout the area and developing internships and job shadowing opportunities for upper classmen, layered on top of three years of career-oriented classes, labs and experiences at the academy, as well as capstone projects.

Dryburgh described the Career Academy’s rapidly evolving program of six academies encompassing 17 career clusters, with a total of 81 programs of study within them. Some programs, like the one preparing CNAs, can lead to a certificate upon completion, enabling the high school graduates to qualify for jobs in health and long-term care.

“We’re starting from zero,” the superintendent cautioned his audience. “Rather than moving too fast and getting things wrong, we’d rather take our time and do it right.”

Also on Tuesday, the district released a comparison of its rising enrollment numbers over the past six years. A total of 7,427 students is reflected in this year’s opening enrollment. Here are comparable numbers from preceding years showing the steadily increasing number of Spuds: 2021-22, 7,336; 2020-21, 7,153; 2019-20, 7,087; 2018-19, 6,987; and 2017-19, 6,701.

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