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Mila Koumpilova, Published May 28 2009

It’s elementary ... Asp has baby boom

10 percent of Moorhead school’s employees welcome newborns

It’s been a year of comparing pregnant bellies, swapping baby formula tips and joking about the water at Moorhead’s Robert Asp Elementary.

Nine employees – or 10 percent of the school staff – had a total of 10 babies this school year.

The school team hasn’t rallied around a single explanation for this unprecedented baby boom. But the synchronized arrival of the infants has brought employees closer together.

“For the staff, it’s been a great support system,” Principal Kevin Kopperud said. “It’s created a lot of feeling of family, literally.”

The staff gathered Wednesday for a “Meet the Babies” party, complete with cake and a photo exhibit. The babies seemed to partake instantly in their parents’ special bond: They all basked in the attention as their moms and dad showed them off, then got grumpy on cue for a “family” portrait.

This fall, staff members saw the impending battery of births coming.

“There were suddenly a lot of women walking around with big bellies,” recalls fifth-grade teacher Andrea Manston, who gave birth to her third son, Jarrett, in March. “Of course it was, ‘Don’t drink the water.’”

Employees have also “blamed” attempts by couples to get their minds off the recession and the new popularity of summer “stay-cations.” The birth rate spike became the talk of the school.

“Lunch was pretty much dominated by pregnancy talk: ‘I can’t sleep at night. Do you also have these cramps?’ ” said Bethanne Weltmer, an interpreter whose fifth child arrived in March.

David Kanuch, a special education teacher and the only dad-to-be on staff, joined the chatter, sparking jealousy with talk of wife Jessica’s earlier speedy deliveries. He and Manston bet on whose baby would arrive first; he won when Jack was born two days before Jarrett.

When the babies started arriving, the school lined up a slew of substitute teachers, and talk turned to feeding schedules and sleeping through the night. Says Manston, “It really pulled the staff together because we swap stories about our children.”

Now Kanuch is thinking about a standing Robert Asp play date this summer and, perhaps, an entire baby boomer kindergarten class down the road: “It’s amazing that we have 10 babies, and they’re all healthy and doing well.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Mila Koumpilova at (701) 241-5529