Increased enrollment putting pressure on staff, schools
Enrollment in Licking Heights schools increased nearly 9 percent within the last month, district officials say, and it is a bit of a surprise.
Superintendent Philip Wagner said 285 students were added to the district's enrollment since the beginning of August.
"We continue to add staff" to compensate, Wagner said.
The district added a full-time third-grade teacher to handle increased student enrollment and to compensate for a new first-grade position, which a third-grade teacher transferred to fill.
A part-time social studies teacher and a part-time kindergarten teacher also were added.
"Our classes are becoming too big," Wagner said.
The district added 118 students to West Elementary School, 43 to South Elementary School, 21 to North Elementary School, 48 to Central Middle School and 55 to Licking Heights High School.
Last year's enrollment was 3,638. This year's currently is 3,745, although, district officials say, that is a fluid figure because it doesn't account for many of the 285 students who are in the process of moving into the district.
Board member Richard Wand said the district currently can handle the increase because the 8.9-mill levy was approved in May.
However, he said, he is worried the increased enrollment could shorten the levy's lifespan and state funding will not increase immediately based on the new figures.
Wand said state funding levels are based on enrollment from at least a year ago.
"We're once again behind the curve," Wand said, because of inadequate state funding.
Also, Wand said, the Ohio School Facilities Commission talked district officials out of adding four additional classrooms to the recent West Elementary School expansion project because state officials didn't believe they were necessary based on past enrollment. Again, he said, classrooms are filling.
Wand said the new enrollment figures came as a shock.
"Frankly, we don't know where (the new students) came from," he said.
Wand said no new significant subdivision growth has occurred in the area or any one place to pinpoint as the cause.
He said board members are assuming overall improved housing sales are contributing to the increase.
While the new students are welcome to the district, Wand said, board members are taking steps to determine where the population growth is taking place.