Schools face enrollment challenges
August 24, 2010
Schools in South Summit School District were aptly prepared for the first day of school Tuesday, according to Superintendent Barry Walker. South Summit schools face budget challenges this year that demand administrators to make the best of the tough economy. "We are running on leaner budgets with fewer teachers, but doing the same job," Walker said.
Because the state determines budget needs based on the number of students, school budget considerations are largely influenced by enrollment projections. South Summit has been tracking enrollment trends over the years. " keeping track over the last 20 years, our district has averaged anywhere from 10 to 20 new students each year," Walker said.
An increase of 10 or 15 students among the 12 grades can be dispersed with little effect on class size. Such an increase will also not grow the district budget enough to hire a new teacher. In order to justify hiring a new teacher, enrollment would have to increase by about 25 or 30 students, Walker said.
Six teachers retired from the district at the end of last year. Only two teachers were hired to fill the vacancies created. Additionally, the full-time teacher aides from last year have been cut back to part-time.
Walker expects about 100 to 110 students to be enrolled in each grade this year, which is similar to last year’s enrollment. The South Summit school board’s goal is to keep class sizes between 20 and 25 students. But with recent budget cuts limiting the hiring of new teachers, some class sizes are increasing to 26 students or more.
South Summit’s kindergarten struggled last year with large class sizes, Walker said. Enrollment this year, while not yet final, appears to be slightly lower, which will allow for a smaller teacher-to-student ratio.
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Class size most affects students from first to fifth grade. The effect of class-size on the middle and high school demographics are different because of individual class periods, according to Walker.
Park City School District enrollment decreases
Park City School District is expecting a drop in enrollment as a result of the Weilenmann School of Discovery, set to open next week. Administrators anticipate the cut in student enrollment to approach 350, according to Superintendent Ray Timothy.
Recent transfer applications coming from students living outside district boundaries, however, have lessened that expected drop in enrollment. Utah’s open enrollment policy allows students to apply to attend school outside their designated district. The majority of applications have come from North and South Summit and Wasatch districts, Timothy said.
Timothy expected to see an overall decrease in enrollment, and was able to anticipate the effect it would have on staffing needs throughout the district. Administrators shifted and absorbed the responsibilities of teachers and, through attrition, reduced staff without direct cutbacks.
Students leaving the district have created enough classroom availability to create the potential of a new preschool program for children ages three and four, Timothy said. If the funding can be secured, the preschool could start as early as October.