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Published September 06, 2013, 08:57 AM

Jobs, tech initiative spark enrollment growth in Thief River Falls

Because of an enrollment spike over the summer, the school district in Thief River Falls, Minn., added three elementary teachers five days before school started.

By: Ryan Bakken, Grand Forks Herald

Because of an enrollment spike over the summer, the school district in Thief River Falls, Minn., added three elementary teachers five days before school started.

On June 1, Challenger Elementary was expected to have 855 students come September. However, over the summer, the number ballooned to 885.

That led to hiring an additional teacher in first, fourth and fifth grades.

“We were sitting at approximately 30 kids per section in those grades and the additional teacher lowered that to 23 to 24,” said Patrick Marolt, Challenger principal. “Having seven fewer students per classroom is big for meeting the needs of children.”

Marolt credited the enrollment hike to this summer’s robust hiring by Arctic Cat and Digi-Key and a technology initiative where K-8 students receive an iPad and high school students receive a MacBook laptop.

Earlier this year, Digi-Key announced plans to add 150 workers and Arctic Cat said it wanted an additional 100.

“With the technology, some kids who have been home-schooled are coming back to the district,” Marolt said.

The middle school and high school combined for 30 more students than the June estimate, but no additional teachers were hired for those grades.

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