By JESSICA CRAWFORD
• Daily Leader
Enrollment numbers were presented to the USD No. 480 Board of Education by Director of Human Resources and Public Relations Paul Larkin Monday evening. With numbers continuing to rise, the board will be discussing possible options during its Sept. 7 regular meeting in an effort to better accommodate the number of students that continue to enter the district.
Although enrollment figures aren’t finalized until Sept. 20 for state funding reasons, it is clear USD 480 is continuing to grow. As of 2 p.m. Monday, Larkin said district-wide enrollment had increased by 119 students from Sept. 20, 2009. He also added from Sept. 20, 2008 to Sept. 20, 2009, an increase of 110 students was calculated.
“Your rooms are tight,” Larkin said to the board.
An enrollment/facilities task force was suggested by board member Nick Hatcher. By the Sept. 7 board meeting, board members will be discussing possible solutions to remedy the space issues that particularly plague the elementary schools throughout the district.
“Maybe then at that point we will have some more solid numbers with enrollment,” Larkin said of Hatcher’s suggestion. “Maybe we will have some type of idea of giving the district some direction on what to do. Who knows what it could be. I think on Sept. 7 we will really be engaged in some conversation about what we need to be looking at.”
Classroom size limits set by the board have been exceeded, Larkin said. The cap for kindergarten classes is 18 students, 19 students for first grade, 21 students for second grade and 22 students for third grade. Currently the district is at 19 students in kindergarten, 20 in first grade, 23 in second grade and still at 22 in third grade.
“We have increased the caps that the board has established,” Larkin said. “We are exceeding the caps now. Where the board hoped, for example, we could stay at 21 students – we now have classrooms with 23. So, now every time you add a couple more bodies into those rooms, they get tighter.
“Will I say that we are completely out of space?” he continued. “No, we are not completely out of space. We could probably go through the buildings and identify places we could convert as classrooms here and there, maybe. But, you can’t keep adding 100 plus students every year and expect your facilities to be adequate for very long.”
On Sept. 20, 2009, 4,463 students were enrolled in USD 480. As of 2 p.m. Monday, 4,582 were enrolled, an increase, Larkin said, of 119. Although district officials are concerned about space issues, Larkin said these issues are actually exciting issues to face.
“The thing to remember, it is a good problem to have,” Larkin said. “People are moving here, families are wanting their kids in this school district. We need to take that as a compliment and not as a problem.”
Although current numbers give the district a well-rounded idea as to where they stand regarding enrollment, final numbers for state funding will not be calculated until Sept. 20.