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K-12 Enrollment Up 0.44%, Thanks to Sioux Falls; Oelrichs is Open Enrollment Champ

The Department of Education released its K-12 fall enrollment figures for 2022 last week. The numbers show 607 more kids going to South Dakota’s public schools, 138,075 total, a 0.44% increase from 2021. Without 663 new students in the Sioux Falls metropolitan area, South Dakota would have seen a decline in K-12 numbers. Sioux Falls schools added 228 students; Harrisburg, 189; Tea, 129; and Brandon, 117.

The 71 other school districts that saw growth added 1,065 students. The 73 districts that saw lower enrollment lost 1,121 students. The biggest districts to shrink were Aberdeen (down 83), Watertown (down 99), and Rapid City (down 108). Funny: all those people Governor Noem claims are coming to Rapid City for Business and Freedom aren’t bringing a boost to school enrollment. Perhaps Noem’s blue state refugees prefer the freedom of life without children?

The only school district to show no change in enrollment is Canton: 874 kids last year, 874 kids this year.

Open enrollment accounts for some of the enrollment changes and reflects some sense of the competitive attractiveness of our public school districts. By raw numbers, the ten school districts netting the most students through open enrollment are Sioux Falls (430), Chester (212), Pierre (181), Waverly (123), Florence (118), Wolsey-Wessington (105), Spearfish (104), Dupree (98), Meade/Sturgis (94), and Ethan (93). Open enrollment produces the biggest net enrollment losses at schools that include the big gainers’ neighbors: Watertown (–273), Harrisburg (–259), Huron (–239), Eagle Butte (–144), Stanley County (–143), Sisseton (–142), Aberdeen (–141), McLaughlin (–118), Mitchell (–115), and Tri-Valley (–102).

Of course, a net gain of 430 students in Sioux Falls makes only a 2% difference in enrollment. A net gain of 212 students in Chester means that district has 63% more kids than it would have if everyone just went to school in their own neighborhood. By percentage, here are the ten biggest gainers from open enrollment:

  1. Oelrichs: 205%
  2. Waverly: 94%
  3. Florence: 69%
  4. Smee: 66%
  5. Rosholt: 66%
  6. Chester: 63%
  7. Ethan: 53%
  8. Gayville-Volin: 52%
  9. New Underwood: 46%
  10. Wolsey-Wessington: 45%

…and the ten biggest losers by open enrollment:

  1. South Central: –35%
  2. Eagle Butte: –28%
  3. Stanley County: –26%
  4. Tripp-Delmont: –22%
  5. McLaughlin: –22%
  6. Marion: –20%
  7. Andes Central: –19%
  8. Selby Area: –18%
  9. Hoven: –18%
  10. Edmunds Central: –17%

Eight schools had nobody open enroll in: Todd County, Leola, Edmunds Central, Hoven, Selby Area, Tripp-Delmont, Eagle Butte, and South Central. Two schools had no locals choose to go to school elsewhere: Bowdle and Harding County.


  1. larry kurtz 2022-12-28 07:28

    Yes, in red states police unions get the cash and teachers’ unions get the shaft.
    1) in most cases middle schools should be eliminated
    2) high schools should insist on business casual except on Fridays
    3) girls and boys, women and men in public schools should be instructed in separate classrooms
    4) school boards should have an elected representative from the high school student population
    5) teachers must be union members and reflect ethnic diversity in the classroom
    6) districts should have the flexibility to experiment with curricula, including year-round sessions
    7) American Indian languages should meet the world language requirement

  2. larry kurtz 2022-12-28 07:51

    The Trump Organization was simply the latest obstacle to public education because it hates people of color and social equity, too. Add it all up: Rupert Murdoch, a a not-so-closeted racist himself, the Kochs, JBS, the Council for National Policy, the National Rifle Association, Fox News, Tucker Carlson, their attacks on public education and their fear of the “Great Replacement.”

  3. M 2022-12-28 07:54

    There are no teachers’ unions in S.D. but there are associations that are voluntary to join. However, most teachers do so for insurance purposes in case of a lawsuit. Districts don’t represent teachers in disputes however the taxpayers’ foot the bill for police mishaps.

    The SDEA has no binding arbitration, and since everything is from the top down, you can hardly call them negotiations. Teachers have no say at all in this state.

    Yes, our educational system is broken but it’s not from the teachers and others on the front lines. Like our military, the troops take orders from generals like Noem. Most teachers I know have lots of ideas for reform but who listens? Clearly not anyone in Pierre.

    You know nothing about the ed system in this state or others so quit comparing them. And keep home-schooling your kids, they probably wouldn’t make it in the public system anyway.

  4. Richard Schriever 2022-12-28 07:58

    larry – should men and women in the workforce operate in separate environments as well? And where in your scheme of things do the non-binary folks get their “instructions”?

    I assume you are going to cite some study or other.

    Do you have separate mens’ and womens’ domains (like bed and bathrooms) in your home? Just curios.

  5. larry kurtz 2022-12-28 08:18

    About 1 in a 1000 babies is born with ambiguous genitalia or intersex characteristics and gender identity is only an issue in school districts where the religion industry hold sway.

  6. Mark Anderson 2022-12-28 08:22

    Yes John Dale, if you want your daughters to be Tradwives, definitely home school. You don’t have to worry about facts. All the boys are Alphas and all the girls submissive or whatever you want. When they leave into the real world they will have their Siddhartha moment.

  7. Dicta 2022-12-28 08:33

    The sort of individual that would be produced by home schooling under John Dale…. poor kid.

  8. Donald Pay 2022-12-28 08:34

    1) There are problems with the middle school system. Fixing the problems might be a better approach.
    2) Clothes ain’t the problem.
    3) Separate but equal? Bad idea.
    4) Absolutely yes.
    5) Union membership and a diverse workforce is to be highly encouraged, but not mandated.
    6) Yes.
    7) Yes.

  9. John 2022-12-28 09:13

    South Dakota NEEDS immigrants. Adapt, migrate, or die.
    Former South Dakota populations of adults with school age children ADAPTED — they MIGRATED out, leaving South Dakota outside of Sioux Falls, and the Black Hills retirement communities – to DIE.

  10. O 2022-12-28 10:28

    Mr. Dale, what makes homeschooling better than public schooling in SD? I presume you are correct that homeschooling represents a significant reason for the decline (or at least the non-increase) in student population, but given that homeschooling is difficult to track, it is hard to quantify that claim. The good and the bad of public school laundry is always on display; homeschool data is at best, cherrypicked for presentation to the light of day. But for all the bravado, not even the most vehement proponent of homeschooling can never seriously propose that it can replace the public schools. You need us. Your homeschool choice exists only because “the rest” of the students can be taken care of in the public schools. Homeschooling wouldn’t last a week if it had to truly take on the FULL responsibility of public education — not a week.

    I also note you link to a random Chinese exchange graph, why not some evidence about the quality of homeschooling to provide evidence to your claim? In public school English class we teach that claims and evidence ought to match.

  11. larry kurtz 2022-12-28 10:50

    Each state’s laws governing minors varies but most determine an age of consent so if i we’re King anyone under 18 would not undergo gender affirming surgery. Period.

    Students under 18 who identify as nonbinary would be placed in gender-separate classrooms by the flip of a coin.

    There would be zero tolerance for bullying resulting in immediate expulsion and parents of bullies would be subject to fines and or prosecution.

  12. larry kurtz 2022-12-28 10:51

    I would also outlaw autocorrect.

  13. larry kurtz 2022-12-28 11:34

    Curious from which other districts Spearditch is drawing — L-D? Meade? Belle?

  14. Richard Schriever 2022-12-28 14:27

    larry, gender is not a black, white, or “option #3” genetic scenario. There are a multitude of shades of grey.

    “Twenty-one variants in 19 genes have been found in estrogen signaling pathways of the brain critical to establishing whether the brain is masculine or feminine,” says Dr. J. Graham Theisen, obstetrician/gynecologist and National Institutes of Health Women’s Reproductive Health Research Scholar at the Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University.

    So the way this variability works is that to determine the different “gradations” of identity one multiplies the two sets of factors. So – 19X21= 399. There are at least 399 different genetic “types” of more or less masculine and/or feminine humans. Not 2 or 3. Do we do genetic testing and assign each type to a unique classroom?

  15. larry kurtz 2022-12-28 15:28

    That kids don’t receive mental health evaluations early in childhood is simply more evidence of a failure to educate parents and voters that American capitalism and the religion industry only care about the money. Medicaid for all could reverse much of that.

  16. larry kurtz 2022-12-28 15:41

    Since treatment is more profitable than prevention and religious hospitals can arbitrarily deny life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness kids will fall through the cracks. It’s just that simple.

  17. larry kurtz 2022-12-28 15:50

    Hey, Dick: if you want to be helpful convince me that open enrollment isn’t more about a parent’s wishes that a student’s educational outcome.

  18. Mark Anderson 2022-12-28 16:28

    You know Larry, if your rule three had been adapted. I would have claimed my femaleness and joined that class immediately.

  19. Arlo Blundt 2022-12-28 18:33

    Middle School is always going to be perceived as an “issue”. The fact is at that age early adolescents do very little academic learning. They are too hormonally distracted. We should just try to keep them between the walls, nutritionally fed, and provide plenty of deoderant and air spray. Try to guide them to appropriate social learning. Acculturation is most important. And encourage them to read what catches their interest.

  20. Arlo Blundt 2022-12-28 18:41

    As I recall, twenty years ago or more when open enrollment came in the three top reasons for open enrollment were
    1. Family Convenience–parents employed in the receiving district, day care and after school care available through a relative or at low cost, family lived on the school district border and identified with receiving community
    2. Parent and/or child want to participate in a program available in receiving district–usually music (orchestra, a more robust music program than available in home district.)Other programs of preference were debate, drama, vocational ag., computer science
    3. Athletics–a big one–where can my kid play??? Specialty athletics like Gymnastics, Hockey, Soccer.

  21. larry kurtz 2022-12-28 18:49

    Okay Tim, from the link tell us how many Meade kids went to L-D, how many went from Stevens to Central, how many went from Hot Springs to Custer, how many went from Belle to Newell and how many went from Wall to New Underwood?

  22. Arlo Blundt 2022-12-28 18:57

    I’d also add that at ages 12-13-14, that Programs for Gifted and Talented children are very important in Middle Schools. At that age the light bulb comes on and early adolescents realize “Hey, this is something I’m really good at.”. Children of high aptitude (doers), talent and intelligence should have opportunities to apply those aptitudes in their interest area. We lose too many of those kids to boredom.

  23. larry kurtz 2022-12-28 20:46

    $20 says a student diagnosed with gender dysphoria would be better accepted in Spearditch and at Douglas than in any other school district West River.

  24. Richard Schriever 2022-12-29 09:12

    larry – learning how to get along with others, how to exist and function in a diverse society is the PRIMARY function of PRIMARY schools. Middle schools a where real learning of subject matter beyond basic interaction with other humans happens, complicated of course as Arlo points out, by hormonal changes. SECONDARY schools (high schools) are where the focus become MORE on the subject matter, but not entirely. Hopefully, the acculturalization and social skills lessons learned over the previous 8+/- years of a student’s life allow them to do 2 things at once.

    You should take a couple courses in human development so you can better understand the way it works, bio-chemically and all, from the perspective of well-researched science before you get into telling anyone else what humas all are about at various ages. That, in your case (pardon me for assuming your age and previous education experiences) would be part of what is called POST-SECONDARY learning.

  25. larry kurtz 2022-12-29 09:16

    What’s next: kids who defy their ages because it doesn’t fit their world views?

  26. larry kurtz 2022-12-29 09:23

    Or sixth graders who don’t believe in time?

  27. larry kurtz 2022-12-29 09:36

    Gender dysphoria is a mental health issue with organic and psychological roots that needs to be treated.

  28. jakc 2022-12-29 18:44

    HS graduating classes at RC Central and Stevens are smaller than 50 years ago despite RC adding 25,000 plus people (according to the census).

    In that time SF has grown – look at the number of new schools. RC has aged and most of the rest of the state has been lucky to break even.

    Not a new problem and not hard to understand. Low wages, with a regressive tax structure – SD is not low tax for the poor

  29. Richard Schriever 2022-12-29 22:41

    larry kurtz – Your inability to distinguish between a “belief” and a biogenetic condition needs to be treated.

  30. Cory Allen Heidelberger Post author | 2022-12-30 07:39

    Sorry about that, Tim! Thanks for pointing out the HTML error. I have removed the apostrophe from the end of the URL, so you and everyone else should be able to click on the lin, study the DOE numbers, and provide comments german to the statistics provided.

  31. Anne Beal 2022-12-30 07:47

    getting back to the enrollment issue, and snarky comments about whether the people moving to the state have children, it seems to me we have been hearing a lot about a shortage of homes and child care.
    Those reported shortages suggest the people who are moving here may very well have children but the kids have not reached school age.
    By now I would think we’d be seeing statistics on how the pandemic affected birth rates for the past two years, too.

  32. Joe 2022-12-30 12:58

    Tagging on to jakc’s response:

    I looked at the profiles for RC’s zip two main zip codes, 57701 and 57702. In both areas the largest population cohort is 65 years and over.

    Source: (lots of other interesting data too)

    Enter zip code in the form at this link.

  33. jakc 2022-12-30 19:46

    Joe, l look around my old RC neighborhood. Families with 4 or 6 kids have been replaced by retired seniors. Once, big families lived in small houses with one bathroom. Now, those houses are only acceptable to retired people or small families. School attendance patterns across the district have changed but the crucial thing is that we don’t see large growth in the districts surrounding Rapid City. I don’t understand the lack of concern, but at some point the crash has to come.

  34. grudznick 2022-12-30 21:00

    What’s your old neighborhood, Mr. jakc?

  35. jakc 2022-12-31 12:21

    robbinsdale. built in the 50’s, 1000 square feet homes with one bath and three bedrooms (boys, girls, parents)

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