Now that students are back in school, officials are counting the number of kids in class.
How many students attend each school affects class size and the amount of money that school districts get from the state to pay teachers, aides and principals. The trend — whether classes are growing faster, slower or as expected — also influences whether schools adjust school boundaries or have to plan building projects.
So far, the Center Grove and Clark-Pleasant school districts both have more students than they did last fall, which they anticipated. Franklin schools, which has had fewer students over the past six years and was expecting that trend to continue, also has more students this fall.
More than 25,600 students are attending public school in Johnson County, up about 14 percent from 10 years ago.
Another 1,700 students attend Greenwood Christian Academy, SS. Francis and Clare Catholic School, St. Rose of Lima Catholic School and Our Lady of the Greenwood Catholic School, which are all private schools accredited by the state.
Next month, public schools will report the number of students attending their schools to the state, and those numbers will help decide how much state money the school districts receive. Locally, area school districts typically get between $5,000 and $6,000 per student.
This week, Center Grove, Clark-Pleasant and Franklin school districts all had between 40 and 60 more students enrolled compared to count day last fall. Edinburgh had 11 more students, school officials said.
Enrollment at Greenwood and Nineveh-Hensley-Jackson schools were down slightly this week, but how many children enroll could change. School officials at Center Grove, Clark-Pleasant and Franklin said the number of students they have now should be similar to the number of students they’ll have next month, but Greenwood Superintendent Kent DeKoninck expects more students to show up.
While school officials welcome the added funding that can come with new students, they also have to be sure they have enough classroom space for all of the students.
This school year, officials at Center Grove and Clark-Pleasant, which both added more than 100 students last school year, will consider how to handle the current students and the new students expected to enroll during the next decade. Those options could include moving students to different schools or adding on to buildings, school officials have said.
Center Grove added eight new teaching positions this fall at its elementary and middle schools to help deal with the growth and reduce class sizes.
Franklin has had fewer students attending its schools since 2008 when the city flooded and cut 18 teaching positions last school year, but it was able to add one new teaching job, school officials said.
“If you have to do that, you have to do that,” Franklin executive director of finance Jeff Mercer said. “And additional students would allow you the latitude to do that, with additional funding. We just don’t have a lot of latitude.”
Franklin cut the teaching positions to help offset what the school district was losing from property tax caps, which limit the amount Franklin can collect to repay its debt, purchase buses and maintain its buildings. Mercer said Franklin has made enough cuts to compensate for the tax caps, but that also means the school district can’t afford to add staff that school officials aren’t absolutely sure they need.
Still, the school district’s first priority is to be sure that students get the kind of individual attention they need in class.
After last year’s teacher cuts, some of the classrooms at Creekside Elementary, Webb Elementary and Union Elementary had close to 30 students, and Franklin added the teaching position this year to help stop the class sizes from growing too quickly, Mercer said. School officials say ideal class size is
20 to 25 students.
Last school year some of the classes at Center Grove’s two middle schools also had more than 30 students, and this year the school district added two sixth-grade teachers, one for each middle school. Center Grove also added six other teachers who are working throughout Center Grove’s five elementary schools, Superintendent Richard Arkanoff said.
Center Grove expects to see more students attending its schools, especially in the central and southern parts of the school district. That’s why a construction project at Center Grove Elementary includes adding four classrooms, but the school district may need to consider other options.
Maple Grove Elementary is at capacity with 563 students, and school officials will need to talk with the community this school year about how to handle the growth, Arkanoff said. That could involve moving a number of students from one school to another, he said.
Clark-Pleasant also expects growth, especially at its intermediate, middle and high schools.
An enrollment study conducted last year showed that Clark-Pleasant could have more than 7,400 students within the next 10 years, which is a roughly 19 percent increase. School officials were expecting about 50 more students this school year. At one time, Clark-Pleasant was one of the state’s fastest-growing public school districts and the fastest-growing school district in Johnson County.
“It’s always good when what you plan for actually happens,” curriculum instruction specialist Cameron Rains said.
Still, Clark-Pleasant officials will need to start planning later this school year to see what changes need to be made to handle the growth.
Superintendent Patrick Spray plans to review all of the schools to see how much space is available for students. It’s been at least five years since a similar review was done, and school officials need to know if there’s any space available for classrooms that wasn’t open before, Rains said.
After that, school officials can consider whether any students need to be moved from one school to another or whether additions are needed at any buildings.