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Kindergarten students watch a presentation in Detroit Lakes. Their numbers have been steadily growing in Detroit Lakes, and Lake Park-Audubon also will welcome a bigger influx of kindergartners this year. Numbers are holding steady in the Frazee and Waubun districts. (Brian Basham/Tribune)

Kindergarten boom times

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Area schools are prepping up for an influx of kindergartners next year.

A spike in projected enrollment numbers in the Detroit Lakes district has been a trend in the last few years, but according to this year's numbers, schools will welcome a few more new faces.

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Detroit Lakes Superintendent Doug Froke said in 2006-07, the district began to see a significant increase in kindergartners.

"The district was enthused about the prospects of kindergarten enrollment," he said. "At that time, the excitement was about the number of 200."

Back in 2001, Detroit Lakes enrolled 158 kindergartners. That number increased to 187 in 2004 and during the 2006-07 school year, the class hit the 200 mark at 208.

And after graduating 210 kindergartners this spring, the district is planning for 227 in the fall.

Both Detroit Lakes elementary schools have been running a total of nine sections of kindergarten, but with the expected increase next year, 11 sections will be necessary to accommodate the students.

Administrators typically plan for 70 percent of kindergarten-eligible students living in the district, Froke said.

According to the census data, about 325 kindergarten-eligible students currently live in the Detroit Lakes district, so administrators are planning for about 227, but keeping in mind that more may be enrolled over the summer.

"This year, we were a little bit more persistent with parents of eligible kindergarten children to commit," Froke said. "We wanted to know what their plans were."

The excitement, however, calls for a few changes.

Roosevelt Elementary was remodeled last summer with five classrooms added in the lower level. Meanwhile, a mobile computer lab is currently in the works at the Rossman building.

"Right now we suspect that we'll have our space (needs) met for the time being," Froke said. "And if more come, we'll look to find options to adequately space them."

With the two additional sections of kindergarten next year and three retirements the district saw this year, five new staff members will be hired between the two elementary schools, he added.

The Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School district has also seen steady kindergarten enrollment for the past three years, said Superintendent Mitch Anderson.

So far, about 46 kindergartners have registered for next fall and the number usually increases over the summer to about 50, he added.

In Frazee, the district graduated 69 kindergartners this year and is anticipating between 60 to 65 newcomers in the fall.

Troy Haugen, dean of students at Frazee-Vergas Elementary School, said the district's numbers fluctuate each year. One year they're up and the next they're down but it tends to stay between 60 and 70 students.

"We're at that border line between three and four sections," he said. "We're trying to keep low class sizes but yet be financially responsible."

The Lake Park-Audubon District is expecting to register over 60 kindergartners this fall, at least 10 students more than this year's graduating number.

"In the past four years, it was steady -- right around 50 each year," said LP-A Elementary Principal Sam Skaaland. "It seems to be gradually increasing, especially this year."

And with 68 kindergarten-eligible students living in the LP-A district, according to the census, more young families seem to be moving into the area.

"The lakes area certainly is an enticing place for young families to live," Skaaland said.

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