Austin Public Schools enrollment higher than estimated

Published 7:11 am Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Enrollment at Austin Public Schools is more than 100 students than anticipated, according to a head count conducted by staff Monday. As of Aug. 13, the district had estimated 4,414 students.

Superintendent David Krenz reported during a school board meeting Monday night he is deliberating with principals the hiring of five new staff to accommodate the influx of students. An additional staff person will be hired at each of the four elementaries and the middle school.

Krenz said increased enrollment is usually distributed more evenly across a district, not concentrated in specific grades. He said some elementary school classes, and particularly sixth grade at Ellis Middle School, had higher than predicted numbers.

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“We did increase classrooms in the elementaries by two,” school board member David Simonson pointed out Monday night.

“There’s isn’t a lot of space left,” Krenz said.

Classrooms at Banfield and Southgate elementaries — the two biggest primary schools — have been tighter than usual. Krenz expects that enrollment trend to continue.

Ellis has been of particular concern because of larger classes moving up from the elementaries, a byproduct of the all-day, everyday kindergarten established about four years ago at Woodson Kindergarten Center, staff said.

A project at Ellis, including new science rooms and additional classrooms, will begin next summer. The expansion has been made possible by a donation from The Hormel Foundation.

“Right now we are doing it within our general fund,” Krenz said. “We’re not having to ask taxpayers to add a tax to add on to these facilities.”

Enrollment at Ellis is at approximately 950 students in grades 6-8. Although the number is expected to remain stable in the near future, it may drastically increase to an estimated 1,086 by 2014-2015, principal Katie Berglund has said.