Classroom Challenge

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The students just keep coming. The head count in the North Boone School District is expected to double in the next three years; managing that growth while battling a tight budget is District 200's biggest obstacle.

Kent Kniep has a long history in the North Boone School District. He's a former student. His three daughters graduated from District 200 schools. His son is a second grader at Poplar Grove Elementary.

"I like the smallness of the schools and we have a great administration, we have great teachers," says Kniep.

But the district is growing at a fast pace and Kniep hopes the schools can keep up; so does District 200 Superintendent Michael Houselog. He says managing this surge of students is his biggest classroom challenge:

"The funding to be able to do it, the teachers to be able to do it, the space to be able to do it," says Houselog.

There are 1,500 students in North Boone schools, but Houselog says, after talking with area developers, that number will double in three years.

Class sizes have already increased. A new high school just opened this year, but may be full by 2007. A six classroom addition to N. Boone Upper Middle School is now in the works, and since the district operates on a $10 million budget, "What we're hoping for would be some kind of relief from the state, but absent that relief, we have to find solutions in our district," says Houselog.

They are solutions that may include another referendum before voters next spring. The district just pulled itself out of a $200,000 deficit by making some cutbacks, but with this expected growth, Houselog says cutbacks may not be possible for much longer.

Here's how North Boone schools compare to some state averages:

The student - teacher ratio in District 200 averages out to about 22 to 1, higher than the state average of 17 to 1.

North Boone's graduation rate is 12 points higher than the state average, 98.5 percent compared to 86.5 percent, but it spends quite a bit less per student. North Boone spends about $6,000 is spent per student while the state average is $8,500 per student.

The taxing rate in North Boone is 5.34 percent; higher than some, but lower than others in the stateline.

And as far as teacher contracts, the current deal expires at the end of June, but talks are already underway and Superintendent Houselog says they've been going well.