Growing pains: Enrollment spike presents a challenge for Starkville schools

November 27, 2012 9:38:52 AM



STARKVILLE -- The Starkville School District has seen a five-percent increase in student enrollment over the past two years, and though this hardly comes as a surprise to district officials, classroom space is becoming an issue, particularly in the elementary schools. 


It was actually the high school that saw the biggest jump from last year, but even with 150 extra students filling the classrooms, SSD Superintendent Lewis Holloway said finding places to put them has not been an issue. 


According to Holloway, the inflated student population at Starkville High School can be attributed to a small graduating class in 2012, which walked only 195. This year, the school looks to graduate 252 seniors.  


"(Space) is not such a problem at the high school, or even the middle school. They both have ample room to grow," Holloway said. "At Sudduth (Elementary), it's a little more difficult to deal with. If we are going to grow three or four classrooms over the next few years, where are those classrooms going to go?" 


Holloway said the physical layout and design of Sudduth would make it difficult to add on to the building, but that Henderson Ward Stewart, which is home to grades three through five, was a little more tailored to some additions, if needed. 


There are already 1,100 students (kindergarten through second grade) enrolled at Sudduth, and this year the kindergarten class grew by 40 students, a 10 percent increase from last year.  


Holloway said no specific answers have been discussed formally yet, but approving a 3-mill bond note could generate $8 million for the district. The question then would be where to invest first in order to efficiently address the issue.  


"Growth is always a good problem, though," Holloway said. "It puts you in some difficult situations with trying to pass bond issues and build buildings and things like that, but growth is a positive sign every time."  


That growth should continue, too. Through findings from a Cohort Survival Rate statistical analysis, Holloway said the SSD could likely have close to 4,700 students by the 2019-2020 school year. It currently serves almost 4,300 students. 


The same statistics point to an approximate 200-student increase over the next few years, so answers may be needed sooner rather than later. 


"There is always a strain on resources," Holloway said. "We are optimistic that we can be more efficient with classes and personnel...we are already seeing some of that at the high school and middle school." 


Holloway said it can be as simple as finding small classes, with 10 or 11 students, and compressing them into other classes. 


Though graduation rates for SHS have declined since 2011, consistent with the five-percent enrollment increase, Holloway said, this has not likely affected the enrollment numbers. This is due to a change in how the rate is calculated. 


"They refigured how they did the graduation rate," Holloway said. "They used to use a five-year graduation rate, and now they use a straight four years. That is frustrating to me because whether it is four years or five years, you need to acknowledge any graduation."