By Tim Linscott
Attendance numbers at Perkins County Public Schools are about at a typical level after the first week of school.
Superintendent William Hakonson explains that there are 399 students in grades pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, which is right were the district has been in recent years.
There are 33 pre-kindergarten students this year and 167 kindergarten through fifth grade students. In the middle school, grades 6-8, there are 84 students while the high school has 115 students (grades 9-12).
“Historically, there have been 400 or so students here at the district,” Hakonson said.
With general shifts in population from rural to metropolitan areas, Hakonson explained that Perkins County, among other areas in the state, are bucking the trend.
“I think the ag economy is the driver,” Hakonson said. “There seems to be a tendency to come home in rural Nebraska. There is such a great rhythm of life in a rural setting.”
Perkins County does not have a large influx of students coming from other districts. The mobility rate in the school district is below the state average and Hakonson explained that, while some students come to the district from other areas, the majority live in the Perkins County district, which covers 809 square miles. This large area to cover in educating students is the 15th largest square mile district in the state, out of 253 districts.
Some of the challenges proposed by having a district that large include transportation costs and weather.
“If the sun is shining in Venango and raining in Elsie, we need to prepare for all of that,” Hakonson said.
Hakonson has experience in dealing with districts spanning a large geographical area. He was superintendent in Louder, Wyo., which covered 1,700 square miles.
“This school district has adapted and accommodated as it has grown,” he said. “People adjust.”
There are several steps being taken at the district by the local school board that Hakonson called ‘really good moves,’ especially in technology.
“The board is committed to staying up with providing opportunities for the students. The board is forward looking in regard to technology,” he said. “There is also an emphasis on what students know, from reading, writing and arithmetic to all subjects. Students really have a chance to get a well-rounded education here.”
Students in grades 6-12, as well as all certified staff, have lap-tops at their disposal.
Vocational and agricultural education is crucial in any rural district in giving students viable tools that can be used locally and Hakonson feels Perkins County is a forerunner in this aspect of education.
“Many kids want to come back here and be a part of this culture and vocational programs help that become a reality,” Hakonson said.
The culture created in the district stems from patrons who truly love their community and collectively want the best for students, Hakonson explained.
“Perkins County has a lot to be proud of here. There are wonderful programs here with capable staff and personnel,” he said.