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Helmut Schmidt, Published September 07 2011

Land of 10,000 lessons

MOORHEAD – For Emily Soukup, a third-grader at S.G. Reinertsen Elementary here, Tuesday’s start of school meant so long to summer, hello homework.

“It was hard to get out of summer. I love school, and I love summer, but the most I love is summer,” she said.

For Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton seniors Jasmine Nelson and Desire Milbradt, it’s time to celebrate being at the top of the high school academic hill.

“It’s senior year. What’s not to like?” Milbradt asked.

“We’re the big dogs in school!” Nelson added.

Thousands of children flocked back for the post-Labor Day opening of public schools in most of northwestern Minnesota.

Moorhead and D-G-F school officials found it a good time to be counting noses.

Moorhead schools saw a healthy boost in enrollment Tuesday, and it came in one of the best spots for a district – kindergarten.

“Our kindergarten enrollment was 439, and we had projected about 380. That’s exciting news. That’s our second-largest class,” Superintendent Lynne Kovash said, adding it’s a good sign of long-term stability.

Moorhead’s overall enrollment was 5,463 students, up 84 from last year’s first day of school, the district reported. That’s a marked turnaround from the loss of 73 students seen at the start of school last fall.

Enrollment continues to grow at Dilworth-Glyndon-Felton schools, too. The district opened its doors with 1,431 students, up 18 from last fall.

The biggest increase was at the kindergarten level in Dilworth, said Colleen Houglum, the junior high school principal and one of two interim co-superintendents for D-G-F.

“That’s what you’d like to see,” she said.

High School Principal Terry Karger is the other co-superintendent.

Houglum said having all-day kindergarten, new-home construction and open enrollment spurred the enrollment increase.

“It’s parents making choices,” she said.

Kovash said Moorhead school officials will analyze the reasons for the increase in coming days. One obvious area was in the K-Plus all-day kindergarten program. With fees nearly cut in half this year, enrollment jumped to 233 students, up from 122 last fall.

“(Bigger kindergarten classes add) a real stability to our enrollment” in the long term, Kovash said.

And that pays benefits in bringing in more state per-pupil aid, she said.

“I think that looks very good for the future of Moorhead School District,” Kovash said.

The end of the school day found a few students stifling yawns in Beth Tollefson’s warm, humid business education computer classroom at D-G-F High School in Glyndon.

Tollefson had the students partner up, then describe their partners to the class, rather than laying down the class rules for the year.

“I learn a lot from how they act and how they answer questions,” she said after class, keeping an eye on the rapidly emptying halls. “I’ll lay down the law later this week. But not today.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583