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Students at Southview Elementary line up to go to class at the start of the school day on Friday. While statewide numbers showed a slight decrease in public school enrollment this year, Marshall Public Schools saw an increase.

MARSHALL — Enrollment at Minnesota’s public schools has declined slightly from last year, while enrollment at private schools increased, data from the Minnesota Department of Education said.

But at the local level, enrollment rose for most districts.

Last week, the MDE released school enrollment data for the 2021-22 school year. Overall, public schools in Minnesota experienced an enrollment decrease of roughly 0.3% – or about 2,146 students — compared to the 2020-21 school year.

However, public kindergarten enrollment saw an increase of more than 5%, rebounding from declines during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the same time, private schools saw a 5.8% enrollment increase this year, the MDE data said.

Marshall Public Schools Superintendent Jeremy Williams said the district currently has 93 more students than it did at the end of last school year, and the district was still projecting enrollment increases in the future.

MPS has a total enrollment of 2,720 students, including children in early childhood education, Williams said. On Oct. 1, the count was 2,706 students. MPS finished the 2020-21 school year with a total enrollment of 2,627 students.

Williams said this week that he was preparing a more in-depth look at MPS enrollment, to present to members of the Marshall School Board next week.

Other schools in the Marshall area reported a mix of growing or shrinking student enrollment, for a variety of factors.

David Marlette, superintendent of Russell-Tyler-Ruthton Schools, said the district currently has a total of 660 students enrolled. Of that total, 309 students were in preschool through fifth grade, and 351 were in grades 6-12.

“Last year, we were in the 580 range” for total enrollment, Marlette said.

Marlette said part of the reason for the growth in enrollment was due to interest in RTR’s new school building.

Chris Fenke, superintendent of Lakeview Public Schools, said the Lakeview district saw slight growth during the current school year. Current K-12 enrollment at Lakeview is 637, compared to 630 at the end of the 2020-21 school year.

“COVID-19 did play a factor, as we did have some families choose to homeschool during the pandemic due to health concerns,” Fenske said. “We did get some of those students back this year, which is one of the reasons for the slight increase.”

Fenske said the pandemic didn’t have a big effect on enrollment last school year or this year, as Lakeview was able to provide both in-person instruction, and a distance learning option for families last year.

Chad Anderson, superintendent of Tracy Area Public Schools, said total K-12 enrollment in the district was at 654 students in February. At the same time last year, TAPS had a total enrollment of 670.

“TAPS has been experiencing a slow decline in enrollment for the past 10 years,” Anderson said. There were a few different factors influencing student enrollment, including a shrinking number of farm families in the area, a trend toward smaller families, and changing demographics.

“Fifteen to 25 years ago, we had an influx of Hmong families moving into the district,” Anderson said. That large movement of families into the district isn’t going on anymore, and families are smaller, he said.

In the past couple of years, the move to online learning during the COVID pandemic had a small impact on enrollment, Anderson said.

Statewide, private schools in Minnesota saw a 5.8% enrollment increase over last school year, the MDE said. At the local level, private schools in Marshall said there were varied factors that affected their enrollment numbers this year.

Ryan Obry, principal of Samuel Lutheran School, said the school’s K-8 enrollment went from 58 students last year to 48 this year. The change was mostly due to three families who moved away over the summer, he said. Enrollment at Samuel Lutheran was looking like it would be back in the 50s next year, Obry said.

“In general, we have not seen a huge influx (of students) through or after the pandemic,” he said. “We maybe had a few more phone calls from parents.”

However, preschool enrollment did drop significantly during the pandemic, maybe because more parents were staying home with their children, he said. The numbers of preschool students enrolling at Samuel Lutheran has started to grow again over the past couple of years, Obry said.

Holy Redeemer School principal Ashley Honetschlager said their enrollment saw some growth. Enrollment in preschool through eighth grade was in the range of 255 to 260 students, compared to around 220 to 230 students in the past. The school also opened a second class for all-day preschool.

“We did see an influx (of students) last year with COVID,” Honetschlager said. However, new families that came to Holy Redeemer had also stayed with the school, she said.“The mission of any private Christian school is to grow and keep faith at the forefront in kids’ education.”

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