Archive for Wednesday, September 22, 2004

It’s official: Enrollment up again

Tonganoxie district reports increases at elementary school, junior high

September 22, 2004

For the fourth consecutive year, Tonganoxie's enrollment is up.

Monday's districtwide head count tallied 1,618 students, said superintendent Richard Erickson. That compares with a year ago, when the Sept. 20 head count was 1,565.

The districtwide head count is slightly higher than the number of students actually attending school in the district's three buildings because it includes special education students who receive services elsewhere.

The increase in enrollment, which equates to a full-time equivalent of 45.3 students, will translate into about $115,000 of additional state aid for the school district, Erickson said.

Erickson, who noted the Sept. 20 count won't be official until approved by a state auditor, said he was pleased with the district's continued growth.

Tonganoxie school district enrollment continues its upward climb:

Sept. 20, 2004, count

Grades K-6: 820

Grades 7-9: 420

Grades 10-12: 366 Total: 1,618

Sept. 20, 2003, count

Grades K-6: 787

Grades 7-9: 388

Grades 10-12: 372

Total: 1,565 * The total includes district special education students who receive services elsewhere

"It's consistent with where we've been here the last three years and I think it's very positive for our community and for our school," Erickson said.

Erickson wouldn't comment on what bearing, if any, he thought the increase in enrollment might play in the upcoming bond election for new school construction.

"I think we definitely have a need for space," Erickson said. "We've had a need here in the last several years and with the increase in enrollment we'll really continue to have a very important need right now that we must meet. I'm hopeful that our patrons will respond in a positive way on Nov. 2nd in helping our kids."

The poster child of growing schools in this district is Tonganoxie Elementary School, which once again saw a dramatic leap in enrollment.

Principal Jerry Daskoski tallied 820 students as of Monday. Schools received state funding based on the Sept. 20 enrollment count of each year.

The grade school's count was up about 33 from last year, Daskoski said.

The good news, Daskoski said, is there's a place to put the additional students.

During the summer, maintenance workers led a project that transformed the school's maintenance shop into two regular-sized classrooms.

The classrooms are in a Quonset hut that also houses the district's volunteer center.

"Building the two extra classrooms was the key for us being able to not feel any more bloated than we are," Daskoski said. "We would have been very overcrowded at a couple of grade levels, third and fifth especially, if we had not built those two additional classrooms and added two additional teachers to the staff."

The bad news is -- if a similar enrollment increase happens next year, more classrooms will be needed.

Daskoski said there's one solution -- to install modular classrooms on the playground.

"We don't want to do that because it's not an overly large playground for that many kids to begin with," Daskoski said.

Junior high's growth

Although talk of Tonganoxie's school crowding usually centers on the elementary school, things are getting a little tight at the junior high school, as well.

Steve Woolf, TJHS principal, said this year's official Sept. 20 enrollment count reached 420.

This tops the 2003-2004 count, tallied at 388.

The new count includes147 seventh-graders, 124 eighth-graders and 149 ninth-graders.

"It just keeps on coming," Woolf said. "Especially our seventh- and ninth-grade classes, with the scheduling issues -- we are struggling."

But students aren't complaining, and neither are teachers, Woolf said.

"The teachers are good sports about it," Woolf said. "We hope there's some relief coming."

By relief, Woolf was referring to the school district's proposed $25.3 million bond election, set for Nov. 2. If the bond election passes, the school district will proceed with plans to build a new 5-8 middle school on the district's 80 acres, transforming the existing grade school into a K-4 facility and renovating the existing junior high and high school buildings into a 9-12 high school campus.

"Hopefully the bond issue will pass," Woolf said. "That's one of those things you don't fail, you just postpone, because eventually you've got to do something. And the more you wait the more it costs."

High school enrollment

Unlike the district's other schools, the high school's enrollment has dropped.

Principal Tatia Shelton said Monday's official count of 366 was down a half-dozen from the Sept. 20 count of a year ago.

"I think we graduated a bigger class than that that was moving in," Shelton said. "But otherwise the other numbers look very similar."

But ripples from lower grades are likely headed that way, she noted.

"We're not experiencing a lot of those big overflows right now," Shelton said. "That's going to hit us in another year or so. There's a big seventh grade group and the ninth grade group is really big. When they come in next year we're probably going to be overflowing in some places and I'm not sure where we're going to put them."

New state standards for graduation requirements will stress the building further, Shelton said.

"Starting with the ninth grade next year our kids are going to be required to take not only three maths, but three sciences and right now we only require two credits for graduation."

And, the state will require one fine arts credit. This could include, Shelton said, band, vocal, debate or speech.

It would be a pinch to squeeze more band students into the music room, Shelton said. And she added, Steve Harrell's cramped classroom where he coaches debate and forensics leaves little room for expansion. Another area of concern is computer classes, which Shelton said, are limited by the number of computers that fit into the classroom.

"Those are the areas that it seems are going to really push us to the limits," Shelton said.

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