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Enrollment up significantly in Morris Area

Classes for the 2009-2010 school year began this week in the Morris Area School District, which has seen an increase of almost 60 students from the end of last school year. New full-time teacher Abbey Johnson starts the new school year Tuesday reading to first-grade students in Lori Boettcher's class.

By Tom Larson

Sun Tribune

First-week enrollment numbers at Stevens County schools vary, and it's hard for administrators to pinpoint a reason.

The most significant change is in the Morris Area School District, which reported a 58-student increase as the 2009-2010 school year opened this week.

Morris Area closed the 2008-2009 school year with 926 students, and Superintendent Scott Monson's preliminary projections for this school year were 931 students. When the district welcomed back students on Tuesday, enrollment stood at 985 students, an increase of 59 from last spring.

"That's really exciting, obviously," Monson said.

But he added that both he and Morris Area Elementary School Principal Brad Korn are at a loss explaining why the kindergarten class has 16 more students than last year's class. The elementary school also experienced an increase of 18 students in 5th grade and 22 students in 6th grade.

Monson and Morris Area administrators dealt with a relative flurry of enrollment changes over the summer, with 52 changes in the elementary school and 21 in the high school.

Monson reported that 22 students left the district while 24 students moved in. Two students used the open-enrollment option to leave the district while 19 students open-enrolled into the district.

The changes led district School Board chair Kurt Gartland to request class-size projections from the high school, although it's difficult to calculate because students can take elective classes.

"With 50-plus kids (additionally), do we have enough teachers?" Gartland said. "We want to be able to react quickly if we need to."

The Hancock School District also saw an increase of students to begin this year, according to Superintendent Jerry Martinson.

Hancock has 258 students this year, compared with 246 the same time last year.

This year's enrollment is about on par with the last three years, after the district saw its 2006 enrollment swell to 252 from 227 in 2005.

The numbers probably won't change much in the future, if current trends continue. Hancock's incoming kindergarten class has 21 students and has hovered between 19 and 22 the last four years, Martinson said, adding that the district also picked up some open-enrollment students and others from families moving into the district.

"It's a good combination there," he said.

The Chokio-Alberta School District saw a slight decline, and Superintendent Ray Farwell said it's part of "a one-way trend in this country."

"There are not enough bodies out there," he said.

C-A's enrollment fell to 157 this year from 161 last year. Kindergarten through 6th grade enrollment climbed from 80 students last year to 84 this year. But high school enrollment dropped from 81 last year to 73 this year.

Cyrus also witnessed a significant drop, with opening day enrollment at 57 students. That's down about 10 students from last year, and that's after 4-year-olds were added in with kindergartners in the mornings, said Principal Dorothy Jenum.

"We had more 6th graders going out than kindergartners coming in," she said.

Cyrus enrollment might continue on those lines next year. This year's 6th-grade class has 15 students while incoming kindergartners numbered seven.

St. Mary's School enrollment fell two students, from 85 to 83, said Principal Jennifer Grammond, but this year's kindergarten class increased from 12 students to 16.

And the school -- at least temporarily -- will see enrollment rise back to 85 students when two 6th graders from Guatemala join the school from September to December, Grammond said.