SISD sees jump in student enrollment

DONNIE BRYANT donnie.bryant@empiretribune.com
Assistant Superintendent Deborah Hummel discusses what could be behind jump in student enrollment. DONNIE BRYANT/E-T

Prior to the opening of the new school year, there was the potential for over 3,750 students enrolling in the district. Those numbers were causing quite a buzz in the administration building as it could have been the highest enrollment for Stephenville ISD as indicated by records dating back to 1997.

Attendance saw a less robust number when the first day of school rolled around with a district head count of 3,649; but it was a healthy increase of 80 students over the student count when the previous school year closed out in May.

Each day after Aug. 27 saw a steady gain of enrollees joining the district population with 60 additional students added Tuesday and Wednesday. A consistent trickle in the balance of the week saw a more modest gain of 9 students to end out the first week of school with a hefty 3,718 figure ? not quite the 3,757 predicted by initial enrollment data, but still an expansion over last year's first day count with 208 more young minds to be educated by the SISD.

Assistant Superintendent Deborah Hummel had several theories for the growth in enrollment numbers.

“We have had a larger number of transfer students from nearby school districts,” she said. “Some of our bigger businesses might account for it as well. FMC has added some plant space. We know Texas Tubular added some space. So this could be a reaction from that growth. And there is a great deal of construction. That along with the transfer students must have had an impact on our numbers.”

Stephenville typically receives transfer students from the neighboring communities of Three Way, Morgan Mill and Bluff Dale, all of which educate through the eighth grade. And that demographic has seen an increase as well.

“Last year we transferred in only five kids from those districts,” Hummel said. “This year we had over 25.”

Even construction at Central Elementary did not lessen the numbers. In fact, its population increased from 413 the day after Labor Day in 2011?a day that historically sees an increase in enrollment?to 440 on Tuesday.

“I figured we would have more people keeping their children in private kindergarten because of the construction,” Hummel said. “But that didn't happen. The really big increases have been at Central and Chamberlin as well as the high school.”

With a figure of 600 on its attendance sheets, Chamberlin Elementary has the largest number of students among the two-year campuses and can account for the boom in student enrollment.

Chamberlin School Counselor Vanessa Halford attributes the surge to another campus across the street from Chamberlin as well as a growth in multigenerational families.

“With Tarleton enrollment seeing its own increase this year, we are seeing children of university students joining our classes,” she said. “And the economy has driven many people to return home to live with their parents, bringing their children with them.”

Regardless of the catalyst for the increase in student population, the result for SISD is a growth in state funding as well - but only if those on attendance rolls are counted present in the classroom. Even the smallest improvement in attendance data can make a hefty financial difference in the amount of money the district will receive when the numbers are crunched at the end of the school year.

“Just a 1 percent increase in attendance can garner us a significant amount of money for the 2012-13 school year,” Hummel said. “With a 96 percent average daily attendance for the year, we are going to earn an average of $175,000 more than we would at 95 percent. That shows yet another reason why it is important for our kids to come to school.”