- Associated Press - Sunday, March 6, 2016

DOTHAN, Ala. (AP) - A private Christian school in southeast Alabama has experienced a major spike in the number of students attending the academy after years of struggling with enrollment.

Enrollment has grown to 555 students at Northside Methodist Academy this year, the Dothan Eagle (https://bit.ly/1SlSTOF ) reported. That’s a 200 student increase from two years ago.

Head of School Bill Reif said he doesn’t know why the number of students has recently increased. He said when numbers had dwindled to the low 300s a few years ago, there were real concerns about the viability of Northside.

“I wish I had the answer to that,” he said. “If I did, I’d write a book on how to grow a school.”

Reif said some factors that might have helped drive growth are the addition of a football team to the school’s athletic activities, strong recruitment efforts by the school and an improving public image of Northside.

Lisa Batchelor, marketing coordinator for the school, said Northside offers small class sizes - about 18 students per class - and laptops for students in upper grades. She said the school also offers a close-knit atmosphere that students enjoy.

“There’s a sense that the teachers really care about the students here,” Reif said. “Not just about their grades.”

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