Schools see new students from New York to Oregon

Ron Burtz

Part 12 of a series of articles examining the numerous economic and lifestyle impacts of the current in-migration to Custer County.
 Even as students prepare to return to the classroom next week, Custer County’s growing pains are being felt throughout Custer School District. The influx of new residents from all over the U.S. is resulting in growing enrollment at all three district schools. However, the completion of Phase 1 of the new Hermosa School and the moving of a modular annex to Custer provides a little more breathing room for teachers and students.
At the August meeting of the board of education, Custer Elementary principal Barb Paulson reported that at her building 25 new students have been enrolled in recent weeks and they are transferring from schools all over the country.
While reporting enrollment at Hermosa has increased by about 13, incoming principal Frosty Paris said they also are coming from multiple other states. On Monday, Hermosa administrative assistant Jennifer Conley reported that in the past week the number of new students had grown to 16. She confirmed many of the newcomers are from numerous states around the U.S. and as far away as New York and Washington.
At Custer Jr./Sr. High, principal Tobey Cass reported similar numbers. As of Monday, 19 new students were enrolled at the jr./sr. high, hailing from central and eastern South Dakota and nearby states like Minnesota and Wyoming as well as more distant states like Arizona (three), Nevada, Texas, Washington, Utah, Oregon and New York. More new registrations are expected in the days ahead.
With the winding down of the coronavirus pandemic, the foreign exchange program is up and running again and this year Custer will host a student from the Czech Republic.
Cass said gauging the number of students leaving the district is a little tricky because if schools start later they don’t need to ask for a transfer of records as soon. As of right now, eight students will not return to the high school this fall and, while that number is expected to grow in coming days, administrative assistant Kelli Moore said she still expects a net increase in enrollment this year.  
With the incoming students, Cass said the challenge is to figure out where they are scholastically and if they are performing at grade level. If they are behind, they will need to be brought up to speed.
At the high school, where a lack of space has been a growing issue the past few years, there is a little more breathing room this year,­ thanks to the Hermosa School building project. A two-room modular annex which was used at Hermosa had to be moved to make way for Phase 2 of the construction. Over the summer months it was moved to Custer where it now sits a few feet to the west of the high school near the band room exit.
Cass said the annex will be used for online classes, senior projects, Spanish and dual-credit courses.
“Having the annex means every class has a room,” said Cass. “Last year one of the classes was on a cart that was transported from room to available room.”
The new Hermosa building, which was built with future expansion in mind, has plenty of room and, if things continue apace, it looks like it will be needed. 

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