NORTHWEST ARKANSAS (KNWA/KFTA) — Enrollment numbers from the Arkansas Department of Education show many smaller schools in Northwest Arkansas are growing at a higher rate than some of the larger schools in the area.

The higher enrollment rates at smaller school districts are raising concerns of having enough space for new kids, and the staff to teach them.

The Siloam Springs Assistant Superintendent, Shane Patrick, said the district knew it would grow, but this year, he said they have 175 more students, which is more than what the district had projected. Patrick’s concern is that the district needs more staff to keep up with the growing student population.

“We are in desperate need, and as a matter of fact, I drive several days a week as an emergency bus driver, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to get kids to and from school,” said Patrick.

Patrick said the district is searching for at least two more bus drivers for their morning routes and six more in the evenings. He said current drivers are having to drive longer routes to make sure every student gets where they need to be.

Bus drivers isn’t the only position the Siloam Springs School District is trying to fill, Patrick said they’re looking for more substitute teachers as well.

“There’s not a day that goes by that we do not have multiple teachers out with sickness or for personal reasons, and we don’t have subs to fill those classrooms,” said Patrick.

Patrick said without enough substitutes, teachers are having to cover larger groups of kids, which takes away from individual learning. He praised the district’s staff for rallying together and filling in where they are needed.

You can check out the district’s job opening here.

Fortunately, Patrick said the district currently has enough space for the added students, and plans to build more schools in the next seven to ten years. He said the district has already bought the land necessary for more buildings.

The Elkins School District Superintendent, Jeremy Mangrum, said the district’s student population grew by six percent in the last year and 20 percent in the last five years. He said they aren’t having trouble keeping the schools staffed, but do need to continue the district’s plans for expansion.

Mangrum said along with building a 42,000 square foot multi-purpose building, the district is adding eight classrooms to Elkins Middle School, since that’s the enrollment age where he’s seeing the most growth.

“The biggest growth, as far as student numbers for us as a district, are the grades sixth, seventh and eighth. We’re having to accommodate the coming classes that will be entering those grades that are much larger than we’ve seen at any point in the history of our district. So we’re going to have to ad more square footage there. We’ve got to add more classrooms,” said Mangrum.

He said the next project will be expanding the high school, since those kids will need more space after finishing their time at the middle school.

“It’s constantly evolving, you just have to be quick to respond,” said Mangrum

Mangrum said smaller school districts, like Elkins or Siloam Springs, might be seeing more enrollment gains because the smaller cities have more room for residential growth.