It's official, SD2 sees bump in enrollment

2012-10-17T18:00:00Z 2012-10-17T20:08:12Z It's official, SD2 sees bump in enrollmentBy ROB ROGERS The Billings Gazette

School District 2 has grown by 258 students this fall, putting its current enrollment at 16,223 students.

That increase is in addition to the 319 new students SD2 gained last year.

According to numbers released Wednesday by the Montana Office of Public Instruction, enrollment in the elementary district, which includes SD2's four middle schools, was at 10,983 students. That's an increase of 189 students over last year.

In the high school district, enrollment was at 5,240 students, an increase of 69 students. Last year, enrollment at the high school level dropped. 

Over the summer, the district was projecting student growth to be in the 350 range. After an initial count just after school started in early September, the district counted 300 new students.

The official count, performed by SD2 officials on Oct. 1 and delivered to OPI, brings the district's fall increase down to 258 students. Still, it's a good-sized group of kids, said Leo Hudetz, the district's chief financial officer. 

"It has grown," he said of the district.

OPI uses enrollment to calculate the amount of state funding a school district receives. It will combine these October numbers with a second enrollment count performed in February.

Using the two numbers, the state then calculates the exact rate at which a school district will receive state funding.

The rapid growth has created pressure in the district's lower grades. For years SD2 has struggled to keep its elementary school classrooms at the correct student-teacher ratio.

But this latest enrollment bubble pushed the district last year into state accreditation trouble. In 2011 more than 100 K-2 classrooms had ballooned past the 20-student limit and district leaders were called to Helena to address the state board of public education about the problem.

To address the issue, SD2 hired eight new primary teachers and reassigned others to primary classrooms, dropping the number of overcrowded K-2 classrooms this year to 89. 

In an effort to better handle its recent growth spurt, SD2 hired firms to study the viability and health of all its buildings and examine the area's demographic trends.

The first of these reports will be presented to the board at a special meeting on Nov. 5.

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