Nearly 300 more children are attending public schools across the county this fall, as compared to a year ago, and the largest school districts are growing as fast as expected.
The number of children attending the 37 public schools across Johnson County now tops 26,000. Center Grove is still by far the largest school district, but Clark-Pleasant schools have grown the fastest during the past five years.
How many children enroll in school each fall is crucial for school districts as they budget how many teachers to hire and what operating expenses they can afford. State government funds the operating costs for schools based on the number of children. The loss of too many children could force cuts at the smaller school districts.
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Nearly 170 additional students are attending Center Grove schools, and 80 more children are in Clark-Pleasant schools.
The growth in both districts is expected to continue. Clark-Pleasant school district is expected to add another 470 students by 2020. Center Grove is waiting on the results of an enrollment study that should forecast its growth in the coming years.
The increase in students at Clark-Pleasant is spread across all grade levels and schools, assistant superintendent Cameron Rains said. A new elementary school and additions at the existing elementary rooms is still planned for the coming years.
The leaders of other schools are pleased that enrollment has stayed steady and that the loss of students from previous years has slowed or stopped.
Franklin schools had planned for about 50 fewer students to show up this fall, as compared to a year ago, but enrollment only dropped by four students, superintendent David Clendening said.
At Indian Creek enrollment is up slightly this year, and most of the growth is due to more kindergartners, superintendent Tim Edsell said.
Students are returning to Northeast Elementary in Greenwood, which had a huge drop in enrollment several years after an apartment complex in the area was renovated and some families moved, superintendent Kent DeKoninck said. Several years ago, enrollment had dropped by about 100 students due to the renovation and a decision to not allow students living in other districts to enroll.
But now, enrollment is up by 60 students for Greenwood schools, which is a marked increase because all the land inside the district boundaries is developed, so enrollment can’t increase due to more homes being built. Instead, enrollment grows only if families have more children or students who live in another school district opt to come to Greenwood instead, DeKoninck said.
“We will never be a growing district,” DeKoninck said. “The goal is to maintain and maybe gain a few.”
The kindergarten class is so large that another classroom needed to be opened at Isom Elementary, he said.
“That’s a good thing,” he said. “You want your kindergarten class to be large.”
More students than expected left or didn’t enroll at the smallest school district in the county. Edinburgh had planned for 20 fewer students this school year, but enrollment across the district is down about 37 students.
And the losses were at the kindergarten level, where 24 fewer children are enrolled, superintendent William Glentzer said.
If kindergarten enrollment continues to drop in the coming years, the school district will face a financial problem.
“It surprised us on kindergarten,” Glentzer said. “It hurt.”
The state will take another official enrollment count from the schools in February, which is the only other time that funding can be adjusted.
“We live with it and make the best of it,” Glentzer said.