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Published August 23, 2012, 09:01 AM

Williston school enrollment lower than projected

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Williston's school superintendent was far off on her enrollment projection for the academic year, and she couldn't be happier.

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — Williston's school superintendent was far off on her enrollment projection for the academic year, and she couldn't be happier.

Schools in the city in the heart of the booming western North Dakota oil patch began the year Wednesday with an estimated 229 new students, nowhere near the potential 1,200 new students that Superintendent Viola LaFontaine had projected.

"I'm gladly admitting I'm wrong because it's better to be prepared than not to be," LaFontaine told The Forum newspaper. "The fact that we did get ready means we'll have growing room for the future."

With the possibility of a 45 percent increase in students, the school district hired more than 50 new teachers — an increase of about 25 percent — added dozens of mobile classrooms and reopened an elementary school that closed a dozen years ago when the last oil boom went bust.

Williston has seen an influx of people from around the country looking for oil field jobs. LaFontaine had based her enrollment projection on the number of new housing units in Williston.

"I don't think the people that are coming here can afford the new homes," she said. "They're just not bringing their families right now."

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