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As enrollment spikes at LHS, Kindergarten dips

By Garrett Ammesmaki,

Editor



Above is a map of the Lennox School District. The color depicting the Lennox School District has been changed for easier visibility. Source: the South Dakota Department of Education.


School is back in session for the Lennox School District and, though each new year has its own set of challenges for the administration, this year carries with it an almost breath of relief.


After nearly three years of dealing with various changing requirements for the pandemic, as well as last year’s tornado that caused damage to Lennox High School’s Career and Technical Education room, Superintendent Chad Conaway is largely optimistic about the coming school year.


“Everybody’s had a bumpy road these last couple years,” Conaway said. “But we’re looking forward to this year with hopes that we will avoid any more of mother natures devastating effects, and hope everybody stays healthy.”


Along with a softening of many issues surrounding COVID-19, and repairs to the CTE room set to be 100 percent finished by September 6, it’s been a resoundingly positive beginning for the Fall semester.


Despite the statewide teacher shortages, the district is headed into the year fully staffed. Conway hopes a lack of issues with staffing will continue and aid the district’s upward trend of academic achievement as he and his fellow administrators examine how to be proactive in adapting to the growing enrollment numbers.


August 21 saw 1,151 students take to classrooms across the district. That includes 36 brand-new students — a return to pre-pandemic levels of growth.


That’s around 100 students gained since 2015, but, while growth is trending upward, where that enrollment is focused has shifted from previous years.


Enrollment in Kindergarten across both Worthing Elementary School and Lennox Elementary School has dipped, while Lennox High School saw a decent increase. That increase has sparked preliminary conversations around possible future expansions to the facility it shares with Lennox Junior High.


The number of LHS students jumped up by 77, growing from 289 to 366, while the LJH student body saw far less, gaining just one student — bringing them from 187 to 188. That lands the total of enrolled students that share the facility at 555.


Combined, the LHS and LJH wings have room to academically serve a total of 700 students, Conaway said. And, while that leaves plenty of growth for either schools where they have separate needs, there is some growing conversation surrounding areas where those needs overlap.


Two of those overlapping areas are the cafeteria and gymnasium.


“It’s too early right now to explicitly say there will be another expansion,” Conaway said. “But we are constantly looking at our plans and spaces to accommodate all the needs for students and programs.”


“We’re not Harrisburg, we’re not Tea, … but we do have to continue monitoring things in the Sioux Falls area,” he added.

The district services roughly 190 miles, stretching all the way to 41st Street, just west of Sioux Falls. And, as the area continues its rapid growth, there is no doubt that Lennox will be effected.


“Growth will happen,” he said, “it’s just a matter of how quickly and in what areas.”


Keeping an eye on the different factors and trends that lead to growth is only one of the priorities for Conaway as the new school year gets underway. Another main focus is making sure the district continues in its upward trend of academic achievement.


“Most of our student achievement indicators have shown significant growth over the last five years,” he said. “Unlike the conversation that’s happening on a national level, during the pandemic years our student achievement results have gone up.”

Over the 2018-19 school year, students in the Lennox district ranked higher than the state average in annual assessments, according to the school’s report on the South Dakota Department of Education website.


Lennox reached 63 percent in English Language Arts, versus 54 percent across the state, and 54 percent in Mathematics versus 46 percent; the only course that saw the state average beat out Lennox was in Science, with the district at 39 percent compared to 40 percent.


For the 2020 - 21 school year, those numbers only increased for Lennox.


Despite the pandemic, the district reached a 64 percent in English Language Arts, 57 percent in Mathematics and 52 percent in Science. How that years’ scores compare to the state average isn’t available due to low participation in the statewide assessment caused by COVID-19.


Conaway hopes that, with both their new and veteran staff members, they’ll be able to keep that upward trend going and remain fully staffed throughout the year.


“We’re all just one resignation from not being fully staffed,” he said, “but we’ve been fortunate enough to have hired good people.”

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