The numbers are in, and enrollment is on the upswing at Ozark County schools

Times photo/Bruce Roberts For the first time since the covid pandemic began in 2020, Dora school has an enrollment of over 300 students in pre-k through twelfth grades. This year, Ozark County school enrollment is as follows: Thornfield (K-8) has 50 students, Lutie has 120 students, Dora has 318 students, Bakersfield has 421 students and Gainesville has 665 students. Combined, the county-wide student total at public schools is a little over 1,500 for the 2023-24 school year.

Year after year, Ozark County schools seem to be growing with increasing enrollment numbers over previous years.

Even though it’s early in the school year, and numbers may actually go up with late registrations, local schools had strong beginning-of-the-year enrollment figures for the 2023-24 school year.

Dora School had the largest enrollment since before the covid pandemic began in 2020. According to Dora School Superintendent Allen Woods, Dora now has 300 students enrolled in K-12 classes.

“If you include pre-k we have 318 students,” Woods said. “This is the first time since covid that we have above 300 students.”

Woods said they have 51 students who came to Dora from K-8 schools in West Plains. Dora had 297 students enrolled in K-12 at the start of school last year.

At Bakersfield, Superintendent Amy Padgett said enrollment has jumped again this year.

“Last year we were at 412 plus head start,” Padgett said. This year Bakersfield is at 421 plus head start.

“I thought our numbers had leveled off last year when they were down just a bit from the previous year, but this year is the highest yet. We have two high school classes of upper 40s,” Padgett said.

Padgett still credits the four-day school week with enrollment spikes. When Bakersfield switched to the Tuesday through Friday school week a few years ago, their enrollment was 337 students. The school has grown by nearly 100 students in the last five years.

Padgett said it wasn’t only the four-day school week that has boosted enrollment. “I believe it’s due to several things,” Padgett said. “Our continual desire to improve our school with increased academic rigor and student course options as well as extracurricular offerings.”

She also pointed to opportunities for students for job shadowing and internships along with work partnerships and early release for seniors with career and technical placement, as well as dual credit opportunities during the week and a caring staff and community who want to see their students succeed.

At Gainesville, the largest school district in the county, Superintendent Justin Gilmore said he is excited about the new and upcoming opportunities for students in his district. Gilmore said he expects the numbers to continue to rise this early in the school year with late registrations and students not yet enrolled in the system. Currently there are 665 students enrolled, compared to 653 at the beginning of school last year.

At Lutie, Superintendent Kathalee Cole said they ended last year at 115, but this year they currently have 120 students enrolled. Lutie switched back from a four-day to a five-day school week this year.

At Thornfield, Ozark County’s only K-8 only school, enrollment is up to 50 students, compared to 47 at the beginning of school last year.

Ozark County Times

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