DESOTO COUNTY, MS (abc24.com) - Mississippi's largest school district is getting bigger. Hundreds of new students enrolled in DeSoto county schools in 2011. It turns out the number of students in the county is driven by the economy.
"This is the least amount we've grown since I've been the superintendent of these students," said superintendent Milton Kuykendall. "And we grew 395 this year."
Over the last eight years, Kuykendall told abc24.com that real estate is the main factor leading to the growth of county schools. The number of students going to DeSoto schools is directly tied to the housing market. When it's up, so is enrollment
"We've had years we grew by 17-18 hundred, but the housing market has really slowed down. I call this manageable growth. We can manage this. When you're growing 16,17,18 hundred a year that's really hard to manage," Kuykendall told abc24.com.
It's hard because more students require more of everything.
"You've got to have teachers. You need more buses, more cafeteria workers. It affects everything, every phase. Textbooks, we need more text books and computers; everything," said Kuykendall.
Transfer students like Chequille Williams told abc24.com one of DeSoto's biggest draws is its teachers.
"They're a little more strict, but it's for the better," said Williams. "The teachers make you work more and push you a lot more here."
There may be just under 400 new kids in 2011, but over the last 20 years there have been almost 20,000. As to where most them are coming from? Kukendall sees a trend for that too.
"About 50 percent of our growth over the last 20 years has been from Shelby County," Kuykendall told abc24.com.
Whether that continues to be the case he's not sure, pointing again to the housing market.
"The Memphis housing market affects DeSoto. People sell homes there and move here," said Kuykendall.
The county's built 15 schools over last 8 years. There are no plans to add any more. Kuykendall said they've got enough room in classrooms for at least five years, that's as long as growth stays below a thousand students a year.
DeSoto schools hired more than 230 new teachers in 2011. Another sign of the economy? They received over 2,500 applications for those spots.