Where are the students? Kids who live in Sioux Falls could be at Jefferson, or Tea, or Sioux Falls Lutheran

KELOLAND.com Original
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Note: This story has been updated to include information from Abiding Savior Academy and campus enrollment breakdowns for the Sioux Falls School District. The story will be updated as more information is provided.

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls School District started the 2021-2022 school year with 29 more students in K-12 than last year.

The numbers are from the first four days of school and officials said the final fall semester enrollment count will be taken later this month. That number will be presented to the school board in October. But today, the school board received this early unofficial enrollment.

The district’s elementary enrollment declined by 109 students. The middle school enrollment decreased by 14 students. Enrollment increased by 152 students in the high school.

A breakdown of enrollment by campus in the Sioux Falls School District.

But not every student who lives in the Sioux Falls School District attends a public school. And not every student who lives in the Sioux Falls City limits attends school in Sioux Falls. At least three school district boundaries spread into Sioux Falls.

There are at least seven private elementary, middle or high schools in the city if the O’Gorman Catholic School system is counted as one.

Officials from several private schools said their schools continue to draw students for several reasons including the size and philosophy.

The numbers for all private schools are as of Sept. 13.

Sioux Falls Christian had 1,265 students this fall, according to the school system. Those students were split between 574 in the elementary grades, 299 in 6-8 and 392 in 9-12.

A school representative said the enrollment figures have been steady over the past few years.

Westside Christian has 48 students in its elementary school this year, administrator Brenda Hill said.

“We’ve been growing gradually every year,” Hill said. “This is our sixth year and we started with 13.”

The Seventh Day Adventist school has five students in five different grade levels, teacher Thadeus Roberts said.

Roberts just started this fall and hopes to grow the school’s profile and enrollment. The enrollment offers a significant amount of one on one for students, Roberts said.

One of the oldest private school systems in Sioux Falls is the Bishop O’Gorman Catholic Schools with six elementary schools, a junior high school and high school.

Admissions counselor Jenni Struck said the school system gained 20 students this year including 15 in kindergarten.

There are 1,038 students in the K-6 schools. The junior high has 339 students. O’Gorman High School has 722 students.

Sioux Falls Lutheran added a high school in 2020-2021. Megan Baedke, a school administrator, said enrollment grew to 45 students this fall.

The school built a new building within the past two years to accommodate growth, Baedke said.

The Lutheran school has 133 students in grades K-5 and 48 in 6-8.

Baedke said the school’s early childhood programs have been one of its most popular components since the school was established in the late 1970s. There were 187 students enrolled this fall.

Abiding Savior Academy, associated with Abiding Savior Free Lutheran Church, has 103 students in grades K-12, said school board president Michael Samp.

Samp said the school has its first high school student this year.

“Our growth pattern has been very consistent,” Samp said. The school is in its eighth year in Sioux Falls.

Baedke said it’s difficult to pinpoint if COVID-19 had any impact on enrollment at any level.

Struck said that’s also true for Bishop O’Gorman schools.

Adam Brucklacher of Cornerstone Academy said COVID-19 caused an increased interest in the academy but did result in a big influx in students.

“The phone was ringing…in August,” Brucklacher said. “We had a lot more phone calls.”

Many callers were asking about home school options but Cornerstone wasn’t always the best fit, Brucklacher said.

Cornerstone offers a full-time K-12 student instruction site with tuition, he said.

The state of South Dakota describes the academy as a center for instruction, Brucklacher said.

Cornerstone has 42 students and about half of those are high school students, he said.

Officials from Good Shepherd Lutheran and Acton Academy did not return phone messages left by KELOLAND.

The South Dakota Department of Education map of the Sioux Falls School District shows how some neighboring school district’s boundaries spill into the city limits of Sioux Falls. Harrisburg, Tea, West Central and Brandon Valley are some examples.

Portions of several school districts are within the Sioux Falls city limits.

The Tea Area School District’s Frontier Elementary School, for example, is in southwestern Sioux Falls at 2,700 Lancaster Drive.

Fred Assam Elementary, in the Brandon Valley District, is at 7700 E. Willowwood St. in eastern Sioux Falls.

The Tea enrollment is larger than last year. The district has 573 schools in high school. There are 545 students in the middle school and 1,052 in the elementary school.

A district representative said Tea has 2,184 students this year compared to 2,060 last school year.

Brandon Valley School District Superintendent Jarod Larson said the district has about 200 more students than last year.

The West Central School District in Hartford is a neighboring school district.

Superintendent Daniel Hoey said enrollment increased by 50 students from last year. The district’s preliminary enrollment for this fall is 1,434.

While there has been growth across the board, most of the growth is happening in younger elementary grades, Hoey said.

“We are graduation smaller classes and welcoming bigger classes in our elementary,” Hoey said.

Officials from the Harrisburg School District could not be reached by phone.

The enrollments in neighboring school districts are preliminary. As with Sioux Falls, the final official counts will be completed later this month.

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