First-grade teacher Jessica Kraushaar helps settle student Blake Cummings into his desk on the first day of school this morning. He was also getting help from his sister Kyla Cummings. - Eric Johnson/photodesk@austindailyherald.com

Archived Story

A bigger first day

Published 10:29am Tuesday, September 6, 2011

District adds about 100 new students for 2011-12

Austin is sprawling.

Preliminary Austin Public School enrollment numbers show there are about 100 new students starting school in Austin today.

“We knew that it would be up and we always anticipate a little bit of growth.” said Austin Superintendent David Krenz.

About 4,639 students will start school Tuesday, compared to about 4,500 last year according to district officials. Although the numbers vary, about 4,425 students came to school in October according to state enrollment reports. These numbers vary throughout the year as students move in and out of districts, and school officials won’t have concrete numbers until mid-September when they can see who’s coming to class.

“We may have kids registered who don’t show up for whatever reason,” said Mark Stotts, director of finance and operations. “Even this first day, you can take a head count, but they have a tendency to count kids who are registered but may not show up.”

School enrollment is up almost across the board. Woodson Kindergarten Center grew from about 356 students at this time last year to about 392 students this year, about what district officials expected.

Austin High School’s numbers shot up this year, going from about 1,232 in October to 1,314 students registered this year. Ellis Middle School’s student population jumped to about 1,007 students, from the 950 or so students last year. Those increases were expected, according to district officials.

Sumner’s enrollment dropped slightly to 289 from about 330 students last year, but numbers are holding steady for its new 45/15 calendar, where students and staff started school in August but will finish with the rest of the school population next June.

District officials were hoping for about 300 students, but about 276 showed up the first day of class, though more students are enrolling at Sumner since.

“We’ve got a little room to grow in that program,” Stotts said.

Banfield and Southgate Elementary Schools are the schools giving district officials the most enrollment headaches, as Southgate’s enrollment is about 537, up from 527 last year, and Banfield is at 586 students this year. Stotts said Banfield staff had to reconfigure several special education areas to make more classroom space for this year. Southgate staff found space for about eight more classrooms last year and probably won’t be able to add classrooms this year.

“We are using every available space that we have,” Southgate Principal Edwina Harder said last December. “We tried to be very wise with what spaces we had.”

District officials originally projected about 4,445 students attending Austin Public Schools on a regular basis for this year, but district officials are confident enrollment numbers will be much higher.

“Folks are staying in the community and having kids and I think that it’s something that we need to recognize and adjust for in the future,” Krenz said.

With higher numbers comes an increased concern over classroom space, however.

“That’s really the biggest issue right now, is classroom space, particularly at Banfield and Southgate,” Stotts said.

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