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Watford City Public School opening bell rang Thursday with more students at their desks than when school ended, a surprise given the continued slump in oil development across the oil producing region.
Superintendent Steve Holen said he has 1,445 students in school as of Monday, an increase of almost 130 since May and 70 more than were counted a year ago.
Several other schools in the oil patch are also reporting increasing student enrollment while others’ enrollments are remaining steady — a reversal in early summer expectations of a slight drop in student numbers.
Holen said Watford City’s number tracks with enrollment estimates and is due to more kids coming into kindergarten than graduated and to relatively stable employment from oil production, not exploration and drilling.
“We never had a lot of kids from the drilling rigs; those people tended to be here for two weeks on and two weeks off. The production side is not as mobile,” he said.