Archive for Thursday, August 23, 2001

Opening day enrollment shows 10-percent growth

August 23, 2001

DeSoto School District enrollment numbers are following predicted growth trends. As of Monday, the district had 3,650 students.

That was 90 more students than the district projected last spring and about a 300 student increase from last year. Board members and school administrators agreed that wasn't bad, considering the difficulty in predicting numbers in what is the second fastest growing school system in the state.

The district's projections fell one teacher short. Sixty-eight new teachers were hired to meet the demands of the projected enrollment increase.After the first day of school, administrators discovered the need for one more.

But district officials expect numbers to grow after Labor Day. The state bases its per-student distribution of state aid on the district's so-called full-time equivalent enrollment, which credits kindergarten students at 50 percent and part-time students by the percentage of their daily attendance. That number is sent to the state on Sept. 21.

Board member Jim Plummer explained to a parent that the district went to great lengths to predict the number of students enrolled this year.

"They talk to realtors, housing developers and to be off by as little as we are, well, it's not good for the kids with 28 in a room, but it's amazing how they do it," he said.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Bill Gilhaus said he felt pretty good about being just one teacher off. He explained the extensive hiring process the district had. He said it might interview 10 to 12 teachers before finding the right one. And despite that, the district filled all spots they expected to need on time.

Clear Creek Elementary School was the only school in the district that seemed to be short a teacher. The ideal number of students per class should not exceed 26 or 27 students, with 32 students being excessively high. Clear Creek has one fifth-grade class with 28 students, just a few more than expected. Principal Randy Doerksen will speak with Superintendent Marilyn Layman this week to discuss possible solutions. They expect to decide on a solution by the end of the week, which might include adding an aide to the class.

Doerksen said one of the primary challenges of having too many students in a classroom is behavior, but he did not feel that would be an issue with this fifth grade class.

"Behavior is not a problem at all at this point," he said. "These fifth-graders are a tremendous group."

As Doerksen visited Clear Creek classrooms on the first day of school, he could sense a need for smaller classes.

"It feels tight," he said. "But we had a staff that was ready for it."

With the 47th Street elementary school to be opened for the next school year, board members expect to reduce class size considerably.

Layman said they were already looking for prospective teachers for the new school. They expect to begin recruiting in October.

"We are in a very competitive district and to get the best of the best, we have to start looking early, "she said.

Layman said the district should know by Sept. 20 exactly how much it will have to spend on hiring.Gilhaus estimated the cost of hiring a new teacher to be between $28,000 and $30,000, not including insurance costs.

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