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School enrollment up for seventh consecutive year

For the seventh year in a row, the number of students enrolled in Grand Forks public schools has increased.

A total of 7,440 students, 88 more than last year, were enrolled on the opening days of school this week.

Last year's opening enrollment was 7,352.

The increase in early enrollment this year "was more than we were projecting, so I would call it a pleasant surprise," said Superintendent Larry Nybladh, noting that projections were expected to be "basically flat."

The largest increase occurred at the middle school level, with 84 more students this year.

Kindergarten is the grade level with the most students, 637, making it the second-largest kindergarten class in the last 10 years.

The smallest grade level is 11th grade, with 513 students.

In recent years, school administrators have seen, on average, increases of about 100 or 150 students, Nybladh said.

This year's large kindergarten class, compared with upper classes, is a phenomenon of growth related to birth rate.

Most of this year's enrollment increase is impacting middle schools.

"Growth in the middle grades tends to be more a function of in-migration to the district and community," Nybladh said. "So we'll really want to try to analyze that phenomenon because it's a little different than the trend we were seeing, which was primarily growth on the front end which typically reflects birth rate over in-migration."

Enrollment growth at the secondary level "is a little easier to absorb" than at the elementary levels, he said.

The continuing increases bode well for the Grand Forks area, Nybladh concluded.

Seven years of enrollment increases "is a very positive reflection on the health and vitality of our school district and community," he said. "It's a very positive phenomenon, and especially with the news about the state and regional economy, I think this is a good indicator."

Enrollment is expected to increase slightly in the coming weeks, due to various factors, he said, "so we'll be monitoring that and working with principals to make sure we have adequate staffing levels to accommodate any enrollment increases."

This year's enrollment increase "does reflect well on the stability of the community, to see that kind of growth, that we're not seeing decline, and that apparently the economy is sufficient to support employment and therefore families with school-age children," Nybladh said.

Grand Forks Public Schools includes Nathan F. Twining Elementary and Middle School at Grand Forks Air Force Base.

School starts in East Grand Forks on Tuesday, Sept. 5.