Barry County youth back in school

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Local schools see consistent enrollments

Cafeterias, hallways and classrooms fill once again as the 2021-2022 school year is underway.

Barry County students were welcomed back last week, and the opening day enrollment numbers show an increase all around.

Southwest school district

Southwest welcomed 775 student on its first day of school, which was an increase of 44 students from last year.

Tosha Tilford, Southwest superintendent, said there were 306 students in elementary, 217 in middle school and 252 in high school.

“[For elementary], this number is greater than expected due to the increased number of new students to our district,” she said. “[For middle school], the numbers compared to last year have remained steady. We will still some fluctuation in numbers until labor day. [And for high school], we expected an increase but we have enrolled 28 new high school students — four today alone.”

The smallest class is the fifth-grade class with 36 students, and the largest is the sophomore class with 73 students.

“Our main focus [in the elementary] for the first few days is to get back into our school/class routines, along with learning and practicing school and classroom expectations,” Tilford said. “[In middle school], the first few days of school we focus on procedures and getting our students acclimated back into school. Our focus in the high school is to jump right in and get the learning process started quickly. Because of PRIDE and other factors they may be a little behind. We don’t want to waste any time focusing on achievement.”

Bus routes have not changed for the current school year.

“I am excited about having the kids in our building, learning and having fun,” Tilford said. “It is going to be a fantastic year. A new year always seems to bring new energy and excitement. We do not have PRIDE classes this year so all of the students are on campus for the first time in a long time.”

Wheaton school district

Wheaton saw an increase of 27 students from last year.

Trish Wilson, Wheaton superintendent, said the school year started with a total of 474 students.

“We currently have four elementary virtual students and 18 junior high and high school virtual students,” she said. “We are excited to have 27 new students to our district. Due to more students riding [the bus] this year, we have changed a couple of routes to accommodate picking up students where we haven’t before. The first couple of days went really well for having so many new students.”

Wilson said the largest class is the third grade class with 44 students, and the smallest is the seniors with 24.

“It is always exciting to welcome all our students back and our new students to the district,” she said. “The first few days is always about getting settled in and learning new classroom procedures and schedules.

“Having our staff and students back in the buildings is always my favorite time of the year.”

Wheaton has 10 new staff to welcome in the 20221-2022 school year, as well.

Exeter school district

Exeter welcomed 327 students back for the 2021-2022 school year.

Tim Jordan, Exeter superintendent, said there was a small increase of five students in preschool through fifth grade because of the addition of the preschool 3-year-old class. 

The largest class is the senior class with 31 students, and the smallest is first grade with 12 students. Jordan said those numbers were expected from the year before.

“In elementary, the focus was on practicing procedures, creating community and getting to know one another,” he said. “In middle school and high school, the focus was on creating consistency in expectations of students.”

There are no changes to the bus routes and no new classes or programs.

“Our plans for the 2021-2022 school year include helping students grow, supporting teachers and staff and continuing our tradition of pursuing excellence,” Jordan said. “We plan to continue to follow our vision statement of ‘Educating students for life.’”

There are eight new staff members this year.

Purdy school district

Purdy soared into the new school year with 659 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade.

Travis Graham, Purdy superintendent, said that includes 351 students in K-6 and 308 in grades 7-12.

“Our eighth grade class currently has the largest enrollment, with 62 students,” he said. “They barely edged out our second grade, that has 61, and our junior class, that has 58. Our first-grade class is currently the smallest with 37 young Eagle learners.

“These numbers have remained remarkably consistent. Last year, on the first day of school our seventh grade class had 62 students; our first-grade class had 65 students; our sophomore class had 59 students and our kindergarten class had 36 students.”

There are a total of six virtual learners: three seniors, one in eighth grade, one in fifth grade and one in third grade.

“Our enrollment has remained remarkably steady over the course of the past two years, and while we expected it to be so, we are grateful,” Graham said. “This consistency indicates an overall stability among Eagle families. They join the community and school district, and they stay. This consistency positively affects every area of a child’s education.”

There were minor modifications to the bus routes for the 2021-2022 school year.

“Our transportation director, Julie Keeler, oversaw the installation of a new three-way radio system for ease of communication among drivers and between buses and the school district and added two new drivers to her transportation team,” Graham said. “As our students and staff returned for the 2021-2022 school year, we focused on opportunities to get acquainted and re-acquainted with one another. We also tackled the remaining COVID-19 challenges, learned about new policies and procedures and embarked on the challenge to ‘move the needle’ in all areas, from academics to facilities to support services to extracurriculars.

“Above all, we enjoyed the sounds of joy, laughter and learning in our buildings that are far too quiet during the summer months.”

Purdy welcomed 14 new staff members, including the new superintendent.

“Our former assistant principal/athletic director, Brian Anton, now serves our district as secondary principal,” Graham said. “We gained two new elementary classroom teachers and two new agriculture education teachers, and we added four new secondary core teachers. We also welcomed a new secondary P.E. teacher and head boys’ basketball coach.

“This year, as at the beginning of every school year, we are most excited to encourage and equip our Eagles to soar in academics, extracurricular activities, athletics, community service and good citizenship and to watch how high and far they fly. Specifically, we are excited about the potential passage of a no-tax increase bond issue in the spring, which will enable us to make much-needed upgrades to our security systems, classrooms and other facilities.”

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