Some wearing backpacks, some clutching winter coats, students at Marine Village School on a recent day lined up in the main hallway. It was time to go home. Parents' cars pulled up to the curb, and two yellow school buses idled in the parking lot.

At almost any other school, this routine scene would be unremarkable. But here, it's another day of elementary school completed in Marine on St. Croix — and that, as simple as it sounds, is enough to bring whoops of delight from the school's top administrator.

"We're not going to go under!" said principal Kim Kokx, sounding triumphant in an interview last week.

In its second year, the Marine Village School has grown from 29 students to 97, a surge that's brought confidence to Kokx and others who have been fighting for the school's survival after the public K-5 charter school was willed into being by residents and the Marine City Council.

The village of about 670 nestled on the St. Croix River has long had an elementary school — it was one of the state's earliest settlements — but the Stillwater School District closed it in a sweeping reorganization that saw Marine's classrooms go dark in the spring of 2017. Budget priorities meant it was no longer feasible to teach locally, the district said at the time.

Hoping to create its own charter school, the city of Marine bought the 68-year-old building in the fall of 2018 for $910,000 in general obligation bonds. The decision brought the City Council a standing ovation from residents in attendance.

It wasn't until August of last year that the Marine Village School finally won necessary approvals to open.

"We were just hoping beyond hope and they said, 'All right, let's go forward,' and we were like, 'Wheee!'" Kokx said.

The school had five staff members that first fall. It wouldn't have survived without funding to augment its state aid, including a three-year charter school program grant of federal dollars administered by the Minnesota Department of Education. Donations from residents have been generous as well, said Win Miller, president of the Marine Village School board.

"We have great support in the community," said Miller. The school still needs some donations to make the budget work, he said, but "we are a lot closer to break even this year than last."

The school's newest amenity took a conspicuous spot in the parking lot last week: a fleet of two brand-new school buses. The buses were a necessary expenditure for the school given its location in northern Washington County, which is mostly rural. Transportation has been a make-or-break issue for families in the area when it comes to choosing a school.

Marine Mayor Kevin Nyenhuis said the school's successful reopening has been a source of pride.

"It's super important to our citizens," Nyenhuis said. "It did put the wind back in the sails of the community, for sure."

The city will collect $131,400 in lease aid payments from the Marine Village School this year, up from a fee of $52,000 last year which had been reduced to account for the low student population.

The Marine Mills Folk School, a nonprofit that teaches folk arts in the school building on the weekends, will pay the city an additional $6,000 in rent this year, Nyenhuis said.

Fourth grade teacher Cari McGlynn said she wasn't nervous about the school's future, even in the first days last year when the staff could be counted on one hand.

"I knew once people caught wind and had a better understanding of what's happening up there, we would grow," she said. "I've never been worried about it because the community has been so welcoming, so excited to have students back in the building."

Jessica Hauser has two children at the school, son Atticus and daughter Gaia. They were among the handful of families who enrolled when the school first opened.

"The first year was a bit wild," she said. "There was a lot of spontaneity but even in its newness you could see something special forming."

Among their other options was River Grove, a public charter school that was also created in the wake of the 2016 decision to shutter the old Marine elementary school.

River Grove Elementary is teaching students in a Stillwater church basement, according to board minutes posted on the school's website. The students will eventually move into a train-depot-turned-school in downtown Stillwater, thanks to a multimillion-dollar renovation paid for by the Manitou Fund, a White Bear Lake-based charitable foundation.

Leaders of River Grove School and the Manitou Fund did not respond to requests for comment.

Marine Village School now has a staff of 18, and will keep growing until it hits 150 students. Kokx thinks it's likely to reach capacity by the 2025-26 school year.

The budget will look better by then, she hopes, but Kokx has also been buoyed by local support. "The commitment to the school, it's unlike anything I've seen," she said. "When we walk down the street with kids, there are people who will clap for them."