The center of excitement: Administrators optimistic about Minnie H’s new purpose as kindergarten center

Harry Lipsiea Journal Reporter
New parking, drop-off area:
The Minnie H Kindergarten Center will soon have a newly configured parking lot and drop off area where families can safely enter and exit off busy College Drive.

Weeks before the first day of classes, there's a unique buzz in the halls of Minnie H school. Teachers and staff members have been busy at work preparing for the kickoff to the new school year.

"We just can't wait for the students to arrive," Kim Krogfoss, administrator with Devils Lake Public Schools, told the Journal. "When the school year comes, there is going to be a special energy in the school. It's very exciting."

As Devils Lake Superintendent of Schools Scott Privratsky put it, Aug. 27 will be a special day for the district.

For the first time at Devils Lake Public Schools, all kindergarten students will attend classes in the same facility. In early 2015, the school board unanimously voted to repurpose Minnie H Elementary into a center for the kindergarten students in the district.

"It's something new and something that is extremely exciting for our district," he pointed out Thursday morning.

Students in first through fourth grade will attend classes at Sweetwater and Prairie View Elementary schools.

The decision was ultimately made to provide the best possible educational environment for the district's kindergarten students.

"The bottom line is that you want to do what is best for the kids," Krogfoss, the principal of the newly-created Minnie H Kindergarten stated. "I feel having all the kindergartners is very positive and will provide a very positive atmosphere for our students."

The social advantages of having all students in the grade is among the reasons that Devils Lake administrators looked into the idea of creating the new center.

Privratsky notes that balancing the demographics was also a factor.

Forming a collaboration within the kindergarten teaching staff is also a positive of the new system, Krogfoss pointed out.

"It's been fantastic to see the teachers really work together," she pointed out. "I think it will be extremely helpful to have all the kindergarten instructors of the district in one building. We have a tremendous staff and they are all really anxious to get going."

To make such a change within the district, the positives need to heavily outweigh potential challenges, the superintendent stated. Privratsky feels that the kindergarten center will be an extremely positive addition to Devils Lake Public Schools.

Like any change, there were some concerns addressed during informational meetings held at the facility. One point brought up is having families with students in two or three different buildings.

"It's going to take some getting used to, it's a bit of a paradigm shift," Privratsky stated. "We understand that it takes time to adjust to change, but I think it's going to be a change for the better."

A concern brought up has also been parking. The district has addressed this and a parking lot with one entrance and exit is currently being worked on.

"I think the new parking area will be positive," he added.

Both Krogfoss and Privratsky are excited about the first day of the school. A lot of preparation has been made to making the transition as smooth as possible. While the decision was made earlier this year, much of the initial groundwork for idea was done in the fall of 2014.

"Any time you have an idea that brings change of that magnitude, you have to plan ahead and give everyone plenty of time," the superintendent stated. "We feel like we are ready for the school year. There's always going to be some challenges, but I feel like we keep them to a minimum."

The kindergarten instructors at the district met at least five or six times during the 2014-2015 school year. The staff also toured a similar facility at West Fargo. Krogfoss stated that the opportunity to work together during the school year helped the group form a positive collaboration.

"All of our staff has really put a lot of time and effort into really organizing for the upcoming school year," the kindergarten center principal added.

The administration is looking forward to a positive school year starting with a positive first day at the center Aug. 27. There will be a meet-and-greet for students and their families held Aug. 26.

"It's very exciting," Privratsky commented. "It truly is the beginning of a new era for Devils Lake Public Schools."

Why is this important to residents of the Lake Region?

It wasn’t long ago that the community of Devils Lake was concerned that declining enrollment numbers would lead to the closing of one of the city’s three elementary schools.

Since Sweetwater and Prairie View were both considerably larger schools, both by enrollment and physical size, the question fell to Minnie H, which only had around 100 students attending.

Paul Goulding, former Devils Lake School Board member, told the Journal that it’s all about balance.

“It was important to balance the diversity of the school population,” Goulding said.

“One of the city’s three elementary schools had a considerably larger population of Native American students than the other two.”

Balancing diversity was one of the reasons the board decided to go to two elementary schools and to turn Minnie H into the Kindergarten Center.

“It is easier to balance diversity with two elementary schools as opposed to three,” Goulding stated.

The number of students requiring special education services, also, is easier to balance with two elementary schools and the Kindergarten Center, rather than three schools.

He also emphasized the importance of staff collaboration. When there were three different Kindergarten classes, one in each school, it was much more difficult for the Kindergarten teachers to work together and collaborate. Now all in one building, it might one day prove to be financially beneficial for the district depending on enrollment numbers and class size.

Mrs. Kim Krogfoss reports there are 118 students enrolled in kindergarten for this year, as of the most recent school board meeting on Aug. 10.