West Sioux's school district has seen its enrollment increase by 42 students in the K-5 level since 2011-12.
HAWARDEN, Iowa (KTIV) -
As Carrie Thonstad lays out iPads for West Sioux elementary students, the fall registration numbers still stand out in her memory.
"We're up thirty-some and then it was 35 and then the first day of school, it was closer to 40. So, it was just this, you're kidding," said Thonstad, the interim elementary school principal and curriculum director for the West Sioux School District.
Those numbers shocked Superintendent Randy Collins too.
"We talked to the school counselor last spring, they were predicting a decrease in enrollment," said Collins.
Student enrollment across the district rose 10 percent to 684 students from last year. Collins says that likely means an additional $1 million in state funding to use in the next couple of years.
"We can turn this wave into a tsunami, if we're smart and we invest," said Collins.
School officials say job options are among the reasons people are headed to rural territory.
"We offer affordable housing, and that has helped young families be able to own their own homes and be a part of the communities," said Kramer.
Another big draw is preschool and kindergarten programs that put kids on the fast track.
"Kindergarten is probably where it's been the most interesting. We've had to hire additional staff to support our higher class sizes," said Thonstad.
As the money flows through the elementary school, it can have ripple effects for sports and fine arts too.
"To offer the things that fit the needs of kids and get them involved and obviously it helps to have a larger student body. The larger crowds we have, the more exciting it is to be parts of these programs," said Ryan Kramer, high school and middle school principal, and activities director for West Sioux.
Collins says that has the district well-positioned for the future.
"We're with the parade. I wouldn't even put us leading a parade right now," said Collins. "But we are keeping up and our plan is to lead the parade eventually."
West Sioux's enrollment increased by 42 in the pre-K through 5th grade level this year. In 6th through 12th grades, there were 27 more students.
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