Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Enrollment declines at county schools

Plans for new elementary school remain on hold


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Numbers provided by the Blaine County School District show that student enrollment fluctuates but has remained basically steady over the past nine years. The numbers, however, are contrary to projections made in 2009 when funding was approved through a 10-year, $59.8 million plant facilities levy to build a new elementary school. Since student numbers haven’t increased as projected then, plans for a new school, estimated to cost about $14 million, remain on hold.
Express graphic by Tony Barriatua

The Blaine County School District has 44 fewer students this year than it did last year. The decline represents only a 1.29 percent change in student population, but is contrary to projections made three years ago when the district was seeking voter approval to build a new elementary school.
    That funding was approved by voters in 2009 as part of a 10-year, $59.8 million plant facilities levy, which earmarked about $14 million for construction of a new school. District officials have discussed off and on over the past few years the possibility of building a new school, but that plan now remains on hold with enrollment not increasing as earlier expected.
    “Because enrollment in Blaine County has been relatively flat over the last few years, there are no plans currently to build an elementary school,” district Communications Director Heather Crocker said Monday. “When and if the time comes that parents feel that class size warrants a new elementary school, I’m sure they will let the school board know.
    “Enrollment, class size and programs are all factors when parents, teachers, the school board and the administration think about facilities,” Crocker said. “Right now, almost every classroom throughout the district is being used.”
    The district released enrollment numbers for the 2012-2013 school year to the Idaho Mountain Express on Monday. The numbers show enrollment at the district’s eight schools on Friday, which was the end of the first week of school and is the number used to establish official enrollment for the school year.
    According to the district, as of Friday there were 3,358 students enrolled. That compares to 3,402 students enrolled at the end of the first week for the 2011-2012 school year. The district had an official enrollment of 3,400 students for the 2010-2011 school year.


“Because enrollment in Blaine County has been relatively flat over the last few years, there are no plans currently to build an elementary school.”
Heather Crocker
District communications director


    Crocker noted that this year’s official enrollment actually shows an increase of 52 students compared to the end of the 2011-2012 school year when enrollment was 3,306.
    Official enrollment numbers have basically held steady over the past nine years, fluctuating only by 139 students between a low for the 2004-2005 school year of 3,263 and a high for the 2011-2012 school year of 3,402.
    In earlier projections, the school district had expected enrollment to be more than 3,420 students for the 2012-2013 school year, and to reach 3,575 for the 2013-2014 school year. The district projected that enrollment would be more than 4,000 by the 2018-2019 school year.
    Crocker did not offer an explanation as to why enrollment has held steady and not increased as projected, but did not disagree with an Express statement that the most likely cause is the sluggish economy here and elsewhere in the United States.
School by school
    Enrollment, whether up or down or constant, varied at the district’s eight schools.
    Wood River High School showed a decline of 50 students, with 773 enrolled for the current school year compared to 823 last year.
    Silver Creek High School, the district’s alternative high school, showed an enrollment of 47 students this year compared to 48 last year.
    Wood River Middle School showed a slight increase in students with enrollment of 685 for this year compared to 679 last year.
    Enrollment at Bellevue Elementary School declined by 15 students, with 334 students enrolled this year compared to 349 last year.
    Hemingway Elementary School in Ketchum also showed a slight decline, with 408 students enrolled this year compared to 414 last year.
    Woodside Elementary School in south Hailey held steady with 348 students enrolled both this year and last year.
    Hailey Elementary School was the only elementary school showing an increase in student population. Enrollment for this year was 507 compared to 481 last year.
    Carey School, which has grades K-12, showed a slight decrease with 134 students this year compared to 141 students last year.


Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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