Students returning to Prairie City School found many new upgrades this year — and met more classmates.

Prairie City School Superintendent Casey Hallgarth said students are back in class with “even more positive energy.” He said enrollment has been going up. When he started in the fall of 2019, he said enrollment was 133, and it’s now at 210.

“I honestly think it is because of the relationships and trust we have all built together here,” he said.

New teachers have also joined the staff, and the school now has a seventh- through 12th-grade principal.

Billy Colson, a teacher and athletic director, took on the additional duties as principal. He will still be teaching two upper-division math classes but has four periods per day to work as principal, Hallgarth said.

“We decided to add the principal position to Prairie City because of our enrollment these past three years,” Hallgarth said. “We have a great relationship, and we see most everything through the same lens.”

Sharon Fritsch will be teaching kindergarten through 12th-grade Spanish, building on the Spanish lessons taught in the school’s all-day preschool program.

“The students love her, and she does a great job building relationships with all students and staff,” Hallgarth said. “She will build this program to be top notch.”

The school also hired Jake Lopez as a computer and technology teacher. He will be teaching a coding, web and three-dimensional printer class along with basic and advanced computer classes, Hallgarth said.

Prairie City School completed a variety of projects over the summer. Hallgarth said they installed a new reader board, a new sound system for the high school gym, new playground equipment, new floors in two classrooms and the high school gym foyer, mini-split HVAC units throughout the school, in-ground sprinklers at the baseball and softball field, new elementary school sidewalks, an updated camera system and a new office for the secretary and principal.

He said they repainted the elementary school gym, and the remodel on the Bates building is coming along with a vapor barrier underneath and a new roof with gutters.

“These past two years have been tough, but I have learned a lot about the resiliency of our staff, students and community,” he said. “This is what keeps me motivated and going. There is nothing like seeing these students in the hallways and joking around with them, seeing them smile and hearing them laugh.”

Hallgarth extended thanks to the school staff and community for support throughout the pandemic.

“There are times when the light gets more and more dim,” he said, “but we all know that we have to keep the fight up and advocate for our school and community.”

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