Despite COVID-19, the White County Central School District has seen its enrollment increase to more than 800 students this year for “the first time in school history,” according to Superintendent Dean Stanley.

Stanley said his district has 802 students in kindergarten through 12th grade. Last year, it was funded on 772 students.

He said although White County Central has not had “a whole lot of growth in the residences here, we have had several [students] that have come by freedom of choice. Over the last couple of years, we have picked up several by freedom of choice.”

“I think that they hear we are a hidden gem out here,” Stanley said. “Our faculty are very, very caring people and that has caused a lot of it to be honest.”

The elementary has 9 percent of its students in virtual learning and at the secondary level, the school district is about 10 percent virtually completely and 10 percent hybrid, which means the students have some classes on site and others at home, he said.

No other school district in White County has shown enrollment growth this fall, with most of them being down at least slightly with schools having to offer both virtual and on-campus options because of COVID-19 restrictions.

Betsy Bailey, school/community coordinator for the Searcy School District, said the district’s total enrollment is 3,947, while virtual enrollment is 1,023, 25.85 percent. The 2019 enrollment for Searcy was 4,017.

James Simmons, superintendent for Harding Academy, said enrollment this year is 572 vs. 653 last year. There are 32 students doing virtually learning, from grades 2-12.

Bald Knob Superintendent Melissa Gipson said this year’s enrollment is 1,151 – 229 virtual students and 922 on site. Last year’s enrollment for Bald Knob was 1,172, Gipson said.

Pangburn Superintendent David Rolland said his district has 762 students enrolled this year, “slightly down from last year. We have been hovering around 15 percent virtual.”

Patti Stevens, Bradford’s superintendent, said current enrollment is 425 and last year’s was 448. She said 79 students are in virtual, 22 in K-6 and 57 in the other grades through 12th.

Riverview School Superintendent Stan Stratton said his district has K-12 enrollment of 1,158 and with pre-K, enrollment is at 1,195. This is down from a pre-K-12 enrollment of 1,129 last year. Last year, K-12 enrollment was 1,189. Stratton said the district has 234 students that are in virtual this year.

In Rose Bud, Superintendent Allen Blackwell said his enrollment is at 747, which is “basically the same as last year.” He said 142 K-12 students are in virtual this year.

Districtwide the Beebe School District has an enrollment of 3,268 students this year, according to Superintendent Dr. Chris Nail. Last year’s enrollment was 3,354, which means the district is down 86 students. The junior high has an additional four students this year and the high school is up by one student. The elementary is down 44 students. Nail said 655 students in the district are in virtual and 2,524 are on site.

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