Now that the 2017-18 School Year is well underway, I want to take the time to share our impressive enrollment numbers. As required by state law, an official enrollment count is conducted each school year on October 1. According to the official enrollment count for the 2017-2018 School Year, student enrollment in the Perham-Dent School District is at 1,439. This number is 50 students above our original projections, and 60 students higher than the district ended the 2016-2017 school year with.
Broken down further, the detailed student count reflects 527 enrolled at Heart of the Lakes Elementary (K-4); 453 enrolled at Prairie Wind Middle School (5-8); and 459 enrolled at Perham High School (9-12).
Annually, enrollment projections are calculated in February using the most current enrollment data available. The projections are used to assist the school board and administration in budget planning for the upcoming school year. This helps to ensure that staff and financial resources are aligned to maintain a balanced budget. The district uses a conservative approach in calculating enrollment projections using district enrollment history, birth rates for Otter Tail County, and census data for 0-4 year olds.
For three years, the school district has seen a positive upswing in enrollment following decades of annual decline. District enrollment peaked during the 1997-98 school year at 1,854 students, while dropping to 1,328 during the 2014-2015 school year.
The decades of declining enrollment was true across the state, not just in Perham. According to Minnesota Department of Education, “Fewer people, smaller families, and an aging population have caused significant declines in student numbers in all of Minnesota. Most rural districts are seeing that same trend as the average household is smaller and the number of young people as a percentage of population shrinks, even if the population overall isn’t decreasing.”
The growth that we are seeing now can be attributed to a number of different factors. Growth in the population, economy, and jobs in Perham has played a major role in our recent student increases. Another big influence has been the intentional development of low- to mid-income housing options in town. We have seen an increase of 111 students over the last three years which far exceeds the 2014 Demographer’s Report that projected 1,343 for the current school year. In fact, this year’s actual enrollment (1,439) is over 30 students higher than the projected enrollment for 2020-2021.
Enrollment at the Heart of the Lakes Elementary has steadily increased over the last five years, so the overall enrollment increase across the district has been anticipated as larger classes move their way through the system. The new Perham High School currently under construction was planned and designed with these anticipated numbers.
The new high school’s progressive curriculum and programming will hopefully continue to add to the upward movement.
— Update Provided by Superintendent Mitch Anderson