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Little Flower, RHS show enrollment increases

By Staff | Sep 2, 2016

Two schools in Pierce County showed bumps in this year’s enrollment.

Little Flower Catholic School’s enrollment is at 52 students. Principal Jorgen Knutson said the number is seven students more than last year.

“This is a good increase for us,” Knutson said.

Rugby High School saw an increase of 11 students from last year-for a total of 261 students-according to Rugby Public School District Superintendent Mike McNeff. By grade, seventh grade had the most students with 52 students, while eighth grade had the least with 36. The junior class had the second most numbers with 49 students. Grades 10 and 12 had 39 students.

According to McNeff, Ely Elementary started the 2015-16 school year at 310 students, and this year enrollment sits at 299-a decrease of 11 students. The largest grade was second grade with 55 students, followed by kindergarten with 48, fourth grade with 45 and sixth grade with 41 students. Thirty-nine students are enrolled at the Early Learning Center, whose classes began on Monday.

“Our enrollment has been stable to slightly growing for the past four years,” McNeff said. “I of course would like to continue to see enrollment growth, but I am aware that there are many factors that influence student enrollment within our community.”

McNeff said factors that have an influence on enrollment include jobs, affordable housing and an “attractive” community.

“We continue to see larger class sizes within our elementary school occurring mostly in the primary grades. We have not yet seen a decrease in student enrollment like other areas further to the west due to the oil slowdown,” McNeff said. “A stable student enrollment often means people have found adequate employment and adequate housing to support their families.”

At Wolford School, enrollment dropped by two students compared to last year. According to Superintendent Larry Zavada, there are 26 students in grades kindergarten through eighth grade, and 13 in grades nine through 12.

“Future enrollments look steady,” Zavada said, adding that less students means smaller families.

In neighboring Benson County, Leeds pre-kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment at Leeds Public School sits at 130 students, a drop of six from last year.

Leeds District Superintendent Robert Bubach said that schools as small as Leeds struggle to provide quality education with limited resources.

“Some of this can be mitigated by the use of online classes and other Distance Education opportunities,” Bubach said. “I am not sure where the line is drawn between local schools and educational opportunities. That is, ‘Do you put a kid on a bus for 30 minutes to be transported to be a bigger school for greater educational opportunities?’ We already have students on the bus in the morning for an hour just to come to Leeds, but what about the kids who live right in town? Lots of questions, no good answers.”

The Rolette school district, which currently sits at 154, lost an estimated 20 students this year. Superintendent Wade Sherwin said that last year the district officially had no classes with single digit enrollments, which he said hadn’t been seen for nearly 10 years.

“We gain/lose students all year but had an average of about 175 students last year–ending the year with 173 k-12 students,” Sherwin said. Sherwin said students seem to “trickle in from the first day until Labor Day, sometimes seeing as many as 10 to 15 students more after the first day or week.

“We have about 30 percent of our students who may be considered transitional,” Sherwin said. “They have opportunities to attend both Belcourt and Ojibwa Schools. We have students that move into the Lower Income Housing for periods of time, and move (after a year or two). We have also seen more students coming to stay/live with grandparents or family while their parents are in some type of transition. With that, we like to see classrooms fill up, but we also realize that our school is not based solely on family farms as it was in the past.”

Towner-Granville-Upham District Superintendent Debby Marshall said enrollment in her district is stabilized, with 235 students in grades k-8 and 91 in grades 9-12-an overall decrease of five students from last year.

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