Archive for Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Elementary school enrollment booming

August 18, 2004

Once again, Tonganoxie's enrollment is on the rise.

In fact, said Tonganoxie Elementary School principal Jerry Daskoski, the Tonganoxie K-6 grade school is one of the largest -- if not the largest -- grade school in Kansas.

Tyler Hammond, left, and Sean Hammond, far right, cross the street
beside Tonganoxie Elementary School on Tuesday morning at the start
of the first day of school. Accompanying the boys are their mother,
Cheryl Macek, and sister, Madison Macek. School crossing guard
Helen McBroom holds a stop sign.

Tyler Hammond, left, and Sean Hammond, far right, cross the street beside Tonganoxie Elementary School on Tuesday morning at the start of the first day of school. Accompanying the boys are their mother, Cheryl Macek, and sister, Madison Macek. School crossing guard Helen McBroom holds a stop sign.

Although Tuesday's enrollment numbers were preliminary and likely to change, Daskoski said he was expecting 833 students.

"My anticipation is that the number will go down," Daskoski said. "But last year that number went down and later it went back up again."

On the first day of school a year ago, 788 students were enrolled. Although within the next few weeks that number fell, by the end of the school year, TES's enrollment had climbed to 815.

¢ Tonganoxie Elementary School's enrollment increase follows a four-year growth trend.

¢ The following numbers are the district's official counts, taken Sept. 20 of each year:

¢ 2000-2001 -- 694 students

¢ 2001-2002 -- 731 students

¢ 2002-2003 -- 778 students

¢ 2003-2004 -- 801 students

¢ 2004-2005 preliminary -- 833 students

Fortunately, the school is prepared to handle this year's additional students.

During the summer, school maintenance workers remodeled a Quonset hut near the grade school. The former maintenance shop area of the building has now been converted into two sixth-grade classrooms.

And, Daskoski hired two additional teachers -- one for the primary grades and one for the upper grades -- to keep a rein on teacher/student ratios. Daskoski said the school strives to have no more than 20 students in the lower grades and 25 students in the upper grades.

With the addition of the classrooms in the Quonset hut, the school now has six classrooms outside of the main building. Three are regular classrooms. One room is used for gifted tudents, one for Title I math and reading and the other for art.

While the school administrators sometimes have to scramble to keep up with the continued enrollment growth, Daskoski's not complaining.

The additional enrollment means additional state aid for the district, and that means no services have been cut.

For instance, Daskoski mentioned that Kansas City, Kan., schools have had to discontinue busing high school students.

"So it's put us in a position where we haven't had to do things like that, and also in the position where the board has allowed me to hire additional teachers so we can keep our classroom sizes smaller," Daskoski said. "That's very encouraging."

While he's grateful for that, Daskoski said he's aware that the grade school can't keep piece-mealing new classrooms every year.

"We're just running out of any other exterior places to put trailers, to build rooms," Daskoski said. "There's no more space in the maintenance shop for building rooms. We've got playgrounds, but I don't want to consume our playgrounds with exterior rooms."

That's why Daskoski's hoping district voters will approve a $25.3 million bond issue for school construction in November.

If it passes, the bond issue will lead to construction of a new 5-8 middle school on the district's 80 acres at the south edge of Tonganoxie and renovation of the K-6 grade school into a K-4 facility. It would also revamp the junior high/high school campus into a 9-12 high school.

"I think this reinforces the fact that we need more space -- we need another school," Daskoski said.

While he's neither complaining or bragging about the enrollment increases, Daskoski said the additional students put the district in a dilemma.

"We need to make sure that we can accommodate them, that we have the room for them," Daskoski said. "If more students are going to be coming here, it's going to be hard to figure out where to put them."

At the junior high, assistant principal Darren Neas said it looks like the school may have about 420 students at this point. Last year, Neas said, the junior high had about 380 students, and the year before that, about 355.

At the high school, a preliminary enrollment count of 361 was about the same as a year ago.

Like Daskoski, Tonganoxie school superintendent Richard Erickson is hoping the bond election for construction passes.

"This bond election is very, very important to us at this point," Erickson said.

And, it's not just because of the grade school's overcrowding, Erickson said.

As the grade school's students matriculate to the junior high and high school, the increased enrollment will have an impact on those schools as well.

"We certainly have a great need right now at the grade school and at the high school with the growing enrollments," Erickson said.

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