PCSD student numbers increase
November 5, 2013
Class sizes have been a concern brought up during public comment at every Park City School District Board of Education meeting since the beginning of the school year. Now that official numbers are in, those concerns can be put to rest as District Superintendent Ember Conley says that planning is currently going on for next year.
Student enrollment is projected each year based on increases over the last decade. According to Conley, that has been about a 3 percent increase.
Conley said that the district also looks at city and county quarterly building permit reports to see if there are new families building homes and moving into town.
"There was not a significant amount, or even very few, building permits," Conley said. "However, what we have found is that the houses that might have been empty during the economic downturn are now full."
That contributed to the increase in student enrollment that Conley and the district did not see coming. Another contribution to the increase in enrollment was "concrete evidence that it was a shift in one of the charter schools," Conley said.
Soaring Wings Montessori School actually saw an increase in enrollment, according to administrator Bruce King. He attributes the increase to the "end of the recession" and the fact that Soaring Wings used to be split into two different locations. There are more students –120 total, to be exact– now that they are all in one place.
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"At the elementary level, we are competing with three public schools," King said. "That is one of the first things people cut out during a recession, and that is what has come back strongly."
Enrollment at the three other Montessori schools in Park City –Little Miners, Keystone and Another Way– has remained the same according to their directors and administrators.
Conley said enrollment figures bulged at McPolin Elementary School and Trailside Elementary School. She and the district have taken action to help control class sizes at the two schools.
Trailside Elementary Principal Kathleen Einhorn said that two of her third-grade teachers started the year with 30 students. Class size is not always an important factor in research when it comes to effective learning, she said, but when talking about lower elementary classes, the goal is to keep size around 21-23 students.
"About three weeks ago, the board of education approved another third-grade teacher, so that has been a great help," Einhorn said. "We divided the two 30-student classes up and made a new class, and we tried to balance boys, girls and different abilities."
At McPolin, Conley said, they are currently in the process of hiring another second-grade teacher. The dual-language immersion program at the school is one contributing factor to the increase in enrollment, according to Conley.
"We have already had significant planning for our dual-immersion program, because it will be the first year that it transitions up to Ecker Hill Intermediate School," Conley said. "We know we are going to have staffing shifts at Ecker Hill because of that, and we are also very motivated to make some increases in staffing there to get class sizes down."
There are currently about 30-31 students per class at Ecker Hill, but Conley said that fixing the problem by hiring new teachers is not as easy as it sounds. The philosophy at Ecker Hill is the "team approach," which will require a full five-person team to make significant shifts in class sizes.
Conley said that they will either have to completely shift the middle school philosophy, switch to a completely different schedule or rearrange priorities to adjust class sizes if everything else remains the same.
She said that the increase in seventh- and eighth-grade students stems from the students shifting back into the district from the Weilenmann School of Discovery.
Beverly Pacal, administrative secretary at Treasure Mountain Junior High School, said that the number of eighth grade students has increased to about 390 from approximately 365 last year.
"We had more students moving in from out state as well as greater numbers coming in from Weilenmann," Pacal said.
The district continues to meet and discuss the middle school and junior high situation for next year, and Conley said she is positive they will be able to make the changes needed thanks to the State Uniform School Funds the district receives per-pupil.
"The increase we have seen is enough to cover the teachers that we have hired," Conley said. "We also know that next year we are going to have to make some changes so we are planning now."
Elsewhere in the district
The Winter Sports School, currently in transition from a private school to a charter school, experienced a decrease in enrollment this year. While they had 49 students during the 2012 school year, they had only 42 this year.
Dave Kaufman, head of school, said that 28 seniors graduated last year, so they had a lot of recruiting to do for the 2013 school year.
"To go from only having about 20 students left after graduation, to go back up to 42 means it was a big recruiting year for us," Kaufman said.
The second enrollment period of four scheduled periods is now open on the school’s official website for the 2014 school year beginning on April 7 of next year. It is now a public charter school enrollment option with 51 of 100 state-funded spots still available. Forty-nine students have been admitted as of the last day of the first enrollment period, Oct. 25.
Eastern Summit County
North and South Summit School Districts both experienced an increase in student enrollment this year. Pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students totaled 1,017 students in the North Summit School district while the total at South Summit came out to 1,517 students.
North Summit increased by approximately 1.8 percent from 999 students last year. Business administrator Rex Smith expected enrollment to stay around 1,000 students.
"We figured it would be about the same, because it has stayed relatively the same for several years," Smith said. "There was a little bit of an increase this year, but numbers stay relatively constant."
South Summit increased by about 2 percent this year from 1,477 students last year. Business administrator Kip Bigelow attributes the increase to what he calls a "natural migration."
"We were expecting an increase, and it is pretty much spread out evenly throughout all the grades," Bigelow said. "We are seeing younger students coming in as our seniors leave, and new families have moved in as well."
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