If it seems like there are more kids than usual at Sulphur Springs schools, it’s because there are. Enrollment in Sulphur Springs Independent School District was at a whopping 4,301 students last week, and the numbers keep rising. On Wednesday, enrollment peaked at 4,316 — what is believed to be a new district record.
SSISD Director of Elementary Education Betty Lawson this week told school board members that each campus took daily attendance counts and turned them in through the first two weeks of school. Administrators are now moving to a weekly attendance count to be reported by each campus each Wednesday.
Fall attendance counts have been on the rise for at least four of the last six years, with rates dropping from 4,216 in fall 2009 to the period low of 4,093 in fall 2010. Enrollment then spiked to 4,242 in fall 2011, dropping off to 4,185 in fall 2012.
Lawson said that the district has tracked enrollment by campus and grade levels for several years. Enrollment tallies posted the fourth Friday in October (the 25th this year) — often referred to as snapshot day by school personnel — count toward average daily attendance credits for which the school receives funding.
Enrollment numbers are also monitored to make sure the elementary classrooms remained below the state-set 22 to one student-teacher ratio. When numbers exceed that figure significantly, the school has to either open a new class section or apply to Texas Education Agency for waivers to allow slightly larger student numbers provided the request meets certain standards.
As of this week’s board meeting (Monday), the district was within the parameters for student-teacher ratios, so no waivers or new sections (which require a new class be added, along with someone to staff it) were yet required. Lawon said this week’s increases weren’t at any particular grade level but across the district, so no new sections have yet to be required.
“We have a couple of grade levels that are slightly higher than the 22-1 student-teacher ratio by a few, 22.5 in kindergarten. Hopefully, that will adjust in a day or two. As students continue to move in or out, it will adjust some. We are working to take care of bilingual kindergarten, which was up,” Lawson said Friday afternoon.
If elementary numbers continue to grow, however, additional measures — new class sections or waivers — could become necessary.
The district had 4,301 students last Thursday, had added another three by Friday and continued to enroll students this week, driving this week’s enrollment to 4,316.
Enrollment at every level except Douglas is up, although it should be noted that primary and elementary campuses are counted together as one big number. Lawson noted that this year’s fifth grade class, the only grade level at Douglas, is the smallest class of fifth graders in five years.
“Douglas is usually around 300 — some years a few less. Fifth grade has 288 students this year. Last year’s group consisted of above 300,” noted Lawson of the 2012 fifth grade class which had a total fall enrollment of 335, 30 more than in 2011.
The 2012 fifth grade class are sixth graders this year; there were 333 students in that class at the end of last week, according to SSISD Superintendent Michael Lamb. At least one additional sixth grader had enrolled by Monday, and more were expected this week, according to Lawson.
Enrollment at Early Childhood Learning Center continues to swell this year, with 617 students signed up as of last week. That’s 44 more students at ECLC than last year, and matches the 617 total for ECLC for fall 2011. Lawson said a large factor in the increase was larger kindergarten classes each year from 2009 to 2011, and again this this year.
She noted that while there were 27 more elementary students this year than last year, data tracked over the first few weeks of class showed last year’s class of second graders decline as they entered third grade this year. But more students have moved in, to increase those figures too. This year’s second grade class is a big group, however, with 275 students enrolled. Overall, there were 1,250 elementary students enrolled as of the first two weeks of school, and growing. Of course, that’s still 123 students fewer in elementary than the whopping 1,373 recorded in fall 2008.
Sulphur Springs Middle School (as of last week’s release) had 36 students more this year than the 944 of last year, setting a six-year high, according to data provided this week.
Enrollment at Sulphur Springs High School rose by 62 students this year, bringing the total to 1,166, two more than the previous six-year high of 1,164 set in fall 2011.
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