Archive for Wednesday, August 24, 2005

TES grows at faster rate than predicted

August 24, 2005

Jerry Daskoski and his staff at Tonganoxie Elementary School had watched during the past few years as enrollment grew.

They'd seen the trend -- an increase of 25 to 30 students in each of the past three or four years.

But this year, Tonganoxie Elementary School is bucking that trend.

On Tuesday, 879 students attended classes at TES. That compares with 817 students in classes at the end of last year.

So instead of the anticipated increase of 30 students, Daskoski and his staff are seeing about 60 additional students this fall.

"It surprised us," Daskoski said. "It really did. We had seen the trend."

And while Daskoski expects a few students to leave the school between now and Sept. 20 -- the date school officials report their numbers to the state for funding purposes -- he said he expects enrollment to range from 870 to 875 students.

"It's double the amount that we had in the previous four years," he said.

It appears soaring enrollments will continue at the elementary school, where 120 students are attending kindergarten this year.

"Traditionally, over the last 10 years, that normally starts between 85 and 95 and then increases every year as new students move into the district," Daskoski said. "That's one of the largest incoming kindergarten classes I can remember."

And while the TES staff and students are coping with this year's increase, Daskoski already is worried about next year. He could add a teacher to handle more students, as the school board has agreed to do each of the past three years.

"But I don't know where to put them," he said.

Next year at this time, the district will be a year away from opening a new middle school. That will mean fifth- and sixth-graders will leave the elementary school and attend classes in the new building near Pleasant and Washington streets.

Daskoski doesn't want his students and staff to suffer because of burgeoning enrollment as they wait for the new middle school to come on line.

"My real concern for next year is if the same thing happens again," he said.

Still, Daskoski -- and other Tonganoxie school officials -- say the district's enrollment problems could be much worse. The enrollment figures could be declining, as they are in many other Kansas districts, primarily those in the central and western portions of the state.

"It's a good problem," Daskoski said. ''... It's exciting. It really is. I like things that are challenging, yet still workable."

The growth is being seen throughout the district.

Superintendent Richard Erickson said that as of Friday, 1,705 students were enrolled, compared with 1,632 students in September 2004.

"I look for this number to go down slightly between now and September 20," the superintendent said.

And so, he's projecting a 50- to 60-student increase for the official counting date.

And like other administrators in the district, Erickson is eager for school construction to be complete, as a way to ease overcrowding. The $25 million bond issue that voters approved last November will finance the new middle school, along with work at the elementary school, and at the junior and senior high school buildings, which will become a senior high campus.

While some administrators are hoping that the new middle school could open in January 2007, Erickson said he's banking on fall 2007.

"It's so difficult to move into buildings in the middle of the year," he said. "I think it would be difficult for us to have a building built by January 2007. I think a reasonable estimate would be to have all buildings open in fall 2007."

Tonganoxie Junior High School Principal Steve Woolf is ready for new middle school to open.

On Monday, 415 students were in class -- about 10 fewer than a year ago. And that was a surprise, Woolf said.

"We were expecting a whole lot less," he said. "Our projection was 24 kids less than this, or even a little less. We've got a bunch."

And at Tonganoxie High School, enrollment is just two students shy of 400, Principal Tatia Shelton said. Last September, the high school enrollment was about 30 students below that number.

"You can definitely tell the crunch in my building, in terms of space," she said. ''... Most of where we're seeing it is we're running out of places to put them for electives."

For example, she said, strength and conditioning class enrollment was so large that the district bought out teacher Matt Bond's plan time.

Computer technology classes are booming.

"We have more kids in some of those sections than we do computers, so I'm looking for five more computers and no space to put them," she said.

At the private Genesis Christian Academy, administrator Kathie Clarke reported that elementary school enrollment is about the same as last year. Genesis added a seventh-grade class this year, along with all-day, every-day kindergarten and daily classes for 4-year-olds. The preschool program, which currently is licensed for 24 children, is full, and Clarke said Genesis is working to re-license it for an additional 20 children.

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