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Detroit Lakes Middle School sixth-graders go through the salad bar line during their first middle school lunch period Tuesday afternoon. (Brian Basham/DL Newspapers)

First-day enrollment higher than expected in Detroit Lakes

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First-day enrollment numbers for Detroit Lakes Public Schools shattered previous estimates.

At a special school board meeting Tuesday evening, the district announced that 2,737 students have enrolled thus far.

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Business Manager Ted Heisserer said that the district budgeted for 2,661 students for the 2009-10 school year.

"Generally we start out higher and get lower," he said.

Kindergarten enrollment also topped estimates with 207 students enrolled. The district was planning on 195 students.

Last year, the district enrolled 212 kindergartners on the first day of school, leading the district to hire another teacher. The increase is a dramatic departure from the 2004-05 school year when 154 students enrolled in kindergarten.

While the increased number of students poses problems in regards to space issues, districts see increased enrollment as a positive sign, since much of the district's revenue comes on a per-pupil basis.

The combined state and operating levy brings in nearly $5,500 in additional revenue with every added student.

"This is a nice problem to have," said Superintendent Doug Froke.

Froke said that even with the addition of four fourth-grade classrooms at Roosevelt Elementary, space continues to be scarce. Most grades are averaging at least 24 students per classroom.

There are five sections of kindergarten with 24 students each at Roosevelt, while the fourth grade has 26 students in each of the four sections.

Class sizes at Rossman Elementary aren't as packed -- the fifth grade has the highest average class size with 25 students. One fifth-grade class has 27 students.

In total, Roosevelt has 669 students enrolled and Rossman's total stands at 549 students.

The Middle School also saw an enrollment jump. This year's enrollment jumped to 640 students from 612 last year's first day of school numbers. It's the highest first-day enrollment since the 2003-04 school year.

Enrollment at the high school was up slightly, with 841 students enrolled, up from 830 students last year.

Open enrollment has played a factor in the increase across the board, but a precise open enrollment figure isn't known yet.

"It's early to say where they came from," Froke said.

He added: "There is an impact from open enrollment and they play a part in these numbers. To what extent, we don't know yet."

The Frazee-Vergas School District saw enrollment drop by more than 30 students, and Lake Park-Audubon enrollment numbers also dropped - to 616 students, compared to 632 students on opening day last year.

Enrollment at Waubun-Ogema-White Earth is reportedly up from last year, but school officials could not be reached for comment Wednesday morning.

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