Oil patch schools reporting higher enrollments despite slump

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WATFORD CITY, N.D. (AP) — Several schools in the western North Dakota oil patch are reporting increased enrollments, despite the slumping oil industry.

Watford City Superintendent Steve Holen told The Bismarck Tribune (http://bit.ly/2byY0hp ) that the district has nearly 1,450 students, a 10 percent increase from the end of the last academic year.

Holen said more students are coming into kindergarten than are graduating, and oil production-related employment in the area remains steady.

"We never had a lot of kids from the drilling rigs; those people tended to be here for two weeks on and two weeks off," Holen said. "The production side is not as mobile."

Ray Public School Superintendent Ben Schafer said the 315 students registered for the district's first day of school is the highest he's seen in five years in the role.

New Public School District 8 in Williston has also seen an enrollment increase from 360 last year to nearly 460 this year, according to Maria Barnett, the district's administrative secretary.

"From what I've experienced so far, there's a lot of returning families," Barnett said. "There's a lot of families moving up here now that the housing is a little more affordable, I think that's part of it."

The Parshall School District is also expecting higher student numbers this year. Nearly 300 students are enrolled this year, up from 270 students last year.

"We're really off to a great start," Parshall School District Superintendent Beth Schwarz said. "Other students might be attracted to our district, and (I'm) excited about what lies ahead."


Information from: Bismarck Tribune, http://www.bismarcktribune.com

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