Despite estimated enrollment numbers falling below original projections, class sizes in the Park City School District are still growing due to budget cuts. The district projected for 4,450 students total in all schools this year, but actual enrollment numbers as of Oct. 1 came in at 4,419 students. That's a district-wide growth in enrollment of 0.4 percent from last year, a slower growth rate than the past few years which experienced approximately 2 percent growth year to year.
While class sizes may be less impacted in secondary schools Ecker Hill Middle School, Treasure Mountain Junior High School and Park City High School numbers are up dramatically in Park City's elementary schools.
According to district data, elementary schools saw a 4.2 percent increase in student enrollment, compared to a 2.3 percent drop in enrollment in secondary schools.
"It was less than we were forecasting, but there is definite growth from last year," said Todd Hauber, the Business Administrator for the Park City School District. "It's better than flat or less because there are impacts on school funding. You want to be in a growth mode but not so much that the growth exceeds the expenses of supporting those students in the district."
Hauber compared district growth to a Goldilocks, and enrollment should fall between not too much and not too little to keep pulling in state funding while not outgrowing what is in place for students.
"We're in a good spot right now," Hauber said.
The Park City School District submitted enrollment numbers to the Utah State Office of Education Monday afternoon, part of a state mandate where the data will be used to determine funding distribution. While growth in the district may mean more students to a class, a boost in student enrollment may allow the district to receive more in state funding depending on where growth is concentrated.
The state distributes funding based on where student growth is coming from, with a different dollar amount attached to students in special education programs, elementary schools, gifted and talented programs and secondary schools.
Across the district, class sizes are averaging roughly a 23 to 1 ratio of students to teachers, a number outlined in budget decisions made earlier this year. That number may not be evenly distributed from school to school or based on available classes in secondary schools, but the district hopes to bring larger class sizes down next year based on where district enrollment growth is occurring.
"Student needs can skew class sizes," said Bob O'Connor, Principal of Park City High School. "There may be one class of 30 students and another class of 20 students on the same subject because of scheduling."
"If the numbers stay stable, we look really good going in to next year," he added. "It's any major increase or decrease that will throw the schedule off balance."
The Park City High School grew slightly from 990 students last year to 1,008 this year.
Ecker Hill Middle School grew the least of all the schools in the district, Hauber said, with the district anticipating a 3 percent drop in enrollment but with an actual 5.7 percent drop.
"It was expected to drop, but more than we had anticipated," he added.
The school with the most growth, Jeremy Ranch Elementary, had a 4.9 percent increase in its student population, a total of 514 students. Principal Shawn Kuennen said the school had anticipated a student population of 420 to 425 students.
"What I believe happened was that the real estate market bloomed in the area over the summer," Kuennen said. "New families move into our neighborhood and we gained somewhere around 40 new students that we didn't know of in June."
The largest impact was to the third and second grades at Jeremy Ranch Elementary School, with 82 students in the third grade (a 20.5:1 ratio) and 81 students in the second grade (a 27:1 ratio). While the school was able to compensate for the increase in student enrollment for the third grade by hiring a new teacher, registration that showed a boom in second-grade enrollment came too late to hire an additional faculty member. The school was able to receive district funding that allowed Kuennen to hire aides in second-grade classes to help teachers with the work load.
"It has been a little problematic," he said, "and we wish we would have known in June. We wound up with more than two classes growing bigger than we would have expected, and the second grade and third grade, those grew at different times. So when we had an opportunity to add a third-grade teacher in August, at about the time that we made that decision, the second grade started to grow."
The other three elementary schools saw similar growth, with Parley's Park Elementary School averaging a 4.1 percent increase in student enrollment, Trailside Elementary School averaging 3.2 percent and McPolin Elementary School averaging 4.7 percent.
"These numbers will inform all kinds of decisions down the road," Hauber said, "to see what's really happening in the classroom. If one class is too far off the 23 to 1 ratio we're seeking, we may have to make staffing changes or other decisions.
"These numbers are critical, the baseline for every other decision made throughout the school year."
Hauber said he will be working on further analysis of which student populations are growing and how to support those students in the coming months.
Park City School District Enrollment Numbers as of Oct. 1:
Total 2012-13 Student Enrollment: 4,419
Total Growth by Percent: 0.4%
Total Growth by Percent for 2011-12 School Year: 1.2%
Elementary School Growth 2012-13: 4.2%
Secondary School Growth 2012-13: -2.3%