Christian schools in this North Dakota town ready for enrollment increases

Teachers welcome prospective kindergarteners to Bishop Ryan in late July (via Facebook).

Minot’s private Christian schools are both seeing a bump in enrollment this fall. Administrators at both Bishop Ryan Catholic School and Our Redeemer’s Christian School said they think more parents are enrolling their kids because they want the traditional values and Christian education that the private schools can offer.

Bishop Ryan Catholic School, which starts classes on Thursday, will see a 4% increase in enrollment over last year and has added a third section of kindergarten and four new modular classrooms for additional space, said Father Jadyn Nelson, the school’s president.

Nelson said the increase in kindergarten enrollment is due in part to the success of the Catholic school’s preschool program. Retention from Pre-K classes to kindergarten has been strong. Nelson said Ryan will also be planning for the future and will begin an exploration of the school’s needs moving forward. The end result might eventually be a capital campaign over the next several years.

Nelson said the Catholic school has reorganized its administration. There is a single principal, Tanya Steckler, for elementary, middle and high school. The Catholic school has also added a new position this year with Father Brandon Wolf, the new dean of students, who said his main focus will be on the “human formation” of sixth graders through seniors. Wolf, who is a Ryan alum himself, has returned to the Minot area after teaching in Bismarck-Mandan for the past few years. He entered the seminary in 2012, after having worked in other positions for several years, and was ordained as a priest in 2019.

Wolf said he enjoys working with students and is excited to begin the school year.

Ryan seniors Carson Merck, left, and Sabryn Ronning are looking forward to serving as student chaplains this year, to athletics and to making new memories with their friends (Andrea Johnson/MDN Bishop)

Wolf said he will focus on building relationships with students and plans to meet with each student to get to know them and talk about what is going on in their lives. Formation will include focusing on a different virtue such as faith, hope, charity, temperance or fortitude every week and activities that help students strengthen their practice. For instance, the students might focus one week on how to have a healthy friendship. Another week they might learn how to write a thank you note or how to pray mentally or on social etiquette that will help build confidence when they are meeting people or in different social situations.

Carson Merck and Sabryn Ronning, who will both be seniors at Ryan, said they are looking forward to all the memories they will make during their senior year. Both will get to serve as student chaplains under chaplain Father Gregory Crane. Chaplains get to go on special retreats, help organize events and assist at Mass, which they said will help them learn more and deepen their faith.

Students at Ryan attend a weekly Mass. Boys might take their turn as altar servers, while girls might serve as eucharistic ministers, part of which includes assisting during the serving of communion.

“I’m super excited to be with my friends every day,” said Merck, who said the school is so small that it feels like a family and the teachers and administrators take a real interest in the students. Merck is also looking forward to athletics.

Ronning, who plays volleyball and tennis, said she also is looking forward to athletics and to making good memories during her last year of school.

Seniors also have the opportunity to take dual credit classes. Nelson said he is really happy with strength of academics and teachers on his staff as well.

Jeff Ringstad, the school administrator at Our Redeemer’s Christian School, said the school has had to get creative to find new academic spaces for its expanding population of students.

“For this school year, we’ll be up over 14 percent,” he said.

Finding space for all of the kids has been an adventure, but everyone has a place, he said.

Ringstad said Our Redeemer’s might not have all of the opportunities that the public school is able to offer, such as career and technical education, but it offers a good, solid general education with plenty of opportunities for students to take dual credit classes. Kids in grade school through high school are now offered Spanish classes, said Ringstad. New to the school this year is an expanded and dedicated guidance counselor position. Jenna Weekley will aid students in applying for scholarships or colleges, among other duties.

Ringstad also said Our Redeemer’s is growing because it offers the Christian education that many parents want for their children, especially with what is going on in the world today.

Classes at Our Redeemer’s will begin on Aug. 24.


This article is republished from Minot Daily News with permission.