Sioux Center district sees record increase

Eighth-grade students Hudson Vonk, Annie Else and Seth Andersen chat before the start of language arts class Monday morning. With 125 students, eighth grade is the Sioux Center School District’s largest grade.

SIOUX CENTER—Ninety-one new students for the 2019-20 academic year sets an enrollment record in the Sioux Center School District.

“We’ve added a grade level basically,” said superintendent Gary McEldowney. “Last year we had about 50 more students come by the end of the year. With the potential for those kids coming back and knowing we’d have more new students coming in, we were guesstimating about 70 so I’m not surprised by the increase but when you see the numbers, it does make the eyes pop out a bit because that’s a 7 percent increase.”

That increase came in the school’s in-seat enrollment, which is the actual number of students that sit in a desk within the school buildings.

The Sioux Center district monitors two sets of numbers — “in-seat enrollment” and “certified enrollment.”

The in-seat enrollment total increased from 1,390 to 1,481 as of Monday, Nov. 4. Of those 1,481 students, 606 are at Kinsey Elementary (transitional kindergarten to fourth grade; 453 are at the middle school (fifth through eighth grade) and 422 in the high school (ninth through 12th grades).

Sioux Center School District enrollment

Eighth-grade students Mya Romero and Amanda Beutler concentrate on a math work sheet Monday morning. With 125 students, eighth grade is the Sioux Center School District’s largest grade.

“What I find fascinating is that all the buildings grew,” McEldowney said. “It wasn’t a particular building or certain grade. That tells me there could be multiple child families and families moving into the area adding to our numbers. I know the community is growing its businesses are growing and I often hear people are interested in coming to Sioux Center for the quality of education we provide at the public and Christian schools here in town. They have great choices.”

The certified enrollment also saw growth of 95.10 students from 1,309.30 last year to 1,404.40 this year. The certified enrollment is a key since it’s the figure that the state uses on which to base state funding and is used as the basis for school budgeting. The key date for the state was Oct. 1, which is when the figure is set. Fractions are part of the certified enrollment to account for various special needs.

“We knew it would be another growth year,” McEldowney said, noting in the last eight years the school has seen its certified enrollment grow. “Sioux Center just continues to grow. The strong economy, the jobs that are available — all those things factor in to more kids.”

One of the factors for the in-seat enrollment is open enrollment, which are students who live in other districts but attend classes in Sioux Center. For the 2019-20 school year, there are 76 students “open-enrolled” into the district with 21 students from Sioux Center “open-enrolled” out. Open enrollment is not figured into the certified numbers as the money is transferred between districts.

The school district’s largest class is eighth grade with 125 students followed closely by ninth grade with 123 students and by first grade with 121 students.

All grades kindergarten through ninth have more than 100 students. Grades 10, 11 and 12 are close with 95, 95 and 92 students respectively.

One half time middle school instructor was added to accommodate the growth.

“We don’t have unlimited resources to continue to add teachers left and right,” McEldowney said. “There’s a process we go through to make sure we have adequate staff. We continue to evaluate our needs. Despite the staffing challenges, we continue to make sure we’re providing the best opportunity for these growing classes.”

“I’ve so appreciative of our staff and how they’re managing to be flexible in what spaces they use,” he continued. “They’ve done a great job of dealing with our growth in real time and by preparing for the growth projections.”

State enrollment projections put the school district at the 1,501 student mark in 2023, but McEldowney believes the school district may reach that mark sooner — possibly by the 2020-21 school year when the new high school building is slated to open.

The community approved a $24.9 million special obligation bond last February to support the construction of a $42.9 million building project, which the district broke ground on in August.

The new two-story high school will be located on 13th Avenue Northeast north of the present Sioux County fairgrounds.

The district is already starting to work through what staffing classes and staffing may look like in that times as some grade shifting will take place the year the high school building opens. Sixth to eighth grades will move into the current high school, third to fifth grades will become the current middle school and kindergarten to second grades will be at Kinsey Elementary.

“There are a lot of details to work through,” McEldowney said. “It will be a time of changes and we want to make it be a smooth as we can.”