Local schools report increased enrollment

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 11, 2006

At the end of last school year, the Demopolis City Schools turned in a roster that had 2,360 students. This year, the school system will top that. Initial numbers through the first three days of schools show 2,436 students.

“Most of the schools are working with some no-shows before they finalize their numbers,” said Dr. Wesley Hill, superintendent of Demopolis City Schools. “I anticipated a pretty good enrollment after seeing what was coming up and what we graduated.”

Demopolis Middle School, which houses grades six, seven and eight, proved to be three students large than Westside Elementary, kindergarten through second grade. DMS reported 596 students while Westside tallied 593.

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U.S. Jones, which houses grades three through five listed 531 students through the first three days of school and Demopolis High had the largest enrollment of the quartet of city schools with 716 students in grades nine through twelfth.

“It will probably be the middle of next week before we are able to nail down a pretty accurate figure,” said Dr. Isaac Espy, principal at DHS. “Right now I think the ninth grade has upwards of 200 students. We anticipate we’ll be up around 150 at graduation this year.”

Last year, DHS only graduated 110 seniors, a fairly low number for a high school the size of Demopolis.

System-wide, this year’s Kindergarten class at Westside has swelled to around 200 students. Also, they have two classes that are hovering around 200 students and a third not far behind, according to Hill.

“We have to have enough teachers and we shift from larger classes to meet that number,” said Hill. “We plan for a certain number of teachers way back in the spring and then we go out and work with the principals to make sure that we have adequate space to deal with the children.”

Hill also mentioned that while the schools weren’t at 100 percent utilization at this point, it could be coming in the near future.

“We know right now that we will probably need to do some building expansion,” said Hill. “Mostly to Demopolis High and to Westside. The reason for that is if you get some growth, the state grants funding for more teachers.”

The Demopolis City School system added one new teacher this year.

“For a while you can let teachers roam from one class to another and use the classes that are vacant for teacher planning,” said Hill. “But when you reach 100 percent utilization that means there are no free classrooms to float teachers into. At that point you have to get new classes.”

Right now, according to Hill, Demopolis City Schools employs around 170 teachers.

The teacher student ratio is one student to 18 teachers in the primary grades (k-three), and one teacher to 21-25 students in grades three and above.

“Sometimes it grows to 25 or 28 students in the higher grades,” said Hill.

“I don’t agree with the class size on some levels,” said Hill. “I think it’s nice to have smaller classes, but the middle grades are the ones that usually get looked over by the legislature.”

According to Hill, part of the reason that the number of students fluctuates on the high school level is because of the different elective classes offered. Some electives are going to be popular and carry full class loads. Others aren’t.

“The state funds a lot of things too,” said Hill. “They fund vocational programs, health programs and that gives you the opportunity to have smaller classes as a result.”

Final numbers for the Demopolis City Schools are expected in after Labor Day.