A boost in Rapid City school enrollment has some parents searching for a different learning environment with smaller classrooms.
At Zion Lutheran Elementary School and Preschool, 40% of the student population is not a member of the church. "Many parents who come here besides looking for the Christian aspect of an education look for smaller classroom sizes, more of a family atmosphere," said Principal Priscilla Sayles.
Parent Kristi Button says she was lucky to get her girls enrolled in Zion when she did. "Understanding now how crowded things are I am absolutely amazed that you know we were able to get our children in there and it hasn't been an issue," said Button.
There are about 175 students at Zion Lutheran Elementary, compared to about 620 students at Valley View Elementary. "We're not quite full yet," said Valley View Principal Wayne Rosby.
But they are getting close to being full; Valley View can hold a maximum of 660 students.
The private schools are filling up quickly too. "Enrollment at Zion has been on the increase for several years now, in fact some of our classrooms are maxed out and we do have waiting lists in some of our classrooms," said Sayles.
Smaller classroom sizes are popular among teachers as well. Zion Lutheran Kindergarten Teacher Mrs. Withee has a class of 14. "They walk in, they get busy, it's their classroom, and I get a change to spend time with each of them," said Withee.
She also says because of her small classroom, students can learn more quickly. "We're really working on those lower case letters and things that normally I would wait a little later in the year and I can get started right away," said Withee.
But if public and private schools in Rapid City continue to fill up, that small classroom atmosphere could be lost, and a new elementary school could be the remedy. "We're about 300 students up district wide this year compared to last year at this time, and 300 more elementary students is certainly a small elementary school," said Rosby.