Public school students across Wise County returned to classes this past week, and there were few surprises in the number of kids enrolled on the first day.
First-day enrollment of 2,921 in Decatur ISD was down about 30 from the last day of the 2012-2013 school year, but that number increased throughout the week.
By Wednesday, enrollment had actually surpassed the end of last year at 2,982. That number is still down from the 2,997 enrolled students on the first day of the last school year.
Superintendent Rod Townsend said growth has been strongest in the middle school over the past couple of years as enrollment has increased by about 40-50 students. In fact, he said that in three years, if the number of students at the middle school stays the same as they enter high school, the high school would top the 1,000-student mark.
As of Wednesday, high school enrollment stood at 880 students.
Bridgeport ISD had a slight drop in enrollment in the first week, but that was expected due to the fact that oil and gas field work is such a large part of the local economy.
The total number of students in the first week was down about 20 students, or less than 1 percent.
“We are in an energy production field where a lot of people who work in the industry have to re-locate to more active drilling areas,” said Bridgeport Superintendent Eddie Bland.
Several families have relocated to more active shales found in south and west Texas. But even with that, the decline in student population in the district was less than budgeted.
“We budgeted for a 2 percent drop, and we’ve been pretty close to what we predicted at this point,” Bland said.
Enrollment increased at all but one of the Northwest ISD schools attended by Wise County residents. At Prairie View Elementary in Rhome, the same number of students – 437 – reported for the start of school this year as in 2012.
Thirty-eight more students showed up at Seven Hills Elementary in Newark, from 517 last year to 555 this week.
Chisholm Trail Middle School in Rhome saw an increase from 845 in 2012 to 866 this year, while the count at Northwest High School grew from 2,444 last year to 2,669.
Overall, the district’s population swelled from 17,332 in 2012 to 19,050 this year and is expected to increase by 35 percent in the next five years. Officials believe the development of new homes and employment in the area are driving the increase.
This year, Northwest ISD opened its 17th elementary campus, Wayne A. Cox Elementary, in Roanoke. NISD also operates five middle schools, two comprehensive high schools and an accelerated high school.
Paradise Superintendent Monty Chapman reported to date PISD is up 13 students compared to the last day of the 2012-13 school year. He said the district has seen small increases of one to two students a day all week and expects the final numbers to stabilize next week.
While the largest increase came in Paradise High School’s ninth grade, PISD hired a new first grade teacher Monday. Chapman said the new hire was in response to the number of first graders topping the student-to-teacher ratio.
He also said increased attendance brings more money into the district, but it will be far from closing the budget gap created by reduced state funding. To meet that challenge, the district has called a November tax rate election to raise the M&O rate 8 cents to $1.12.
Chico’s numbers stayed relatively constant. Monday’s enrollment of 576 students was down slightly from the 580 enrolled on the first day of the 2012-2013 school year. Chico Superintendent Mike Jones said those numbers will usually fluctuate during the first few days of school.
“We’ll have a couple of students who won’t show up until after Labor Day,” he said.
Slidell Independent School District had 241 students on the first day of school. The elementary was at 109, and the secondary campus, which includes grades five through 12, was at 132.
Superintendent Greg Enis said enrollment was up slightly from what was expected.
“We had graduated a big senior class. With seniors going out and new kids coming in, we expected a five to 10 student deficit, but we’re really at the same place we started last year, which puts us up from where we thought we were going to be.”
Enis said the biggest change is in kindergarten.
“We’re right at the limit with our kindergarten class. … We’re looking at how to best manage that and the possibility of splitting the class,” he said.
Alvord ISD reported 343 students in grades pre-K through 5, another 152 in grades 6-8 at the Middle School, and 203 at the high school for a total enrollment of 698 students – down 10 from last year’s first-day enrollment of 708.