Mt. Vernon kindergarten rolls spike

FORTVILLE — Mt. Vernon schools will be welcoming so many new kindergartners in the upcoming school year that an additional class is being added to each elementary school.

While the average number of kindergarten students in the school corporation in the northwestern part of the county was 195 during the past three years, Superintendent Bill Riggs said so far there are 222 signed up for the 2015-16 school year. And there could be even more, as enrollment is ongoing.

“I ended up adding one more section of kindergarten at each school, and I hope that’s enough,” Riggs said.

The other three school corporations so far are not noticing a significant increase in kindergarten students. Numbers are based on attendance to kindergarten roundup, the primary method for families to be introduced to kindergarten and get their children signed up.

Riggs said the increase in enrollment is likely because the economy is picking back up, bringing new homes to the community. Tonya Galbraith, McCordsville town manager, agrees, saying that not only are building permits on the rise, but the community is attracting young families.

“I think it’s the proximity to things you can do in Fishers or Indianapolis or Greenfield,” Galbraith said. “I think it’s still very affordable, but you can get a great house, and it’s the school system — the school system plays a huge part in it.”

Galbraith said he expects 90 new housing building permits by the end of this quarter, up from 81 at this time last year. The community was the fastest-growing town in Hancock County from 2000-10, with more than 300 percent growth, according to the U.S. Census.

Riggs said McCordsville and Mt. Comfort elementary schools will have five kindergarten classes, up from the current four each. Fortville Elementary School will have four elementary classes, up from the current three; there are 18 to 20 students per kindergarten class.

The additional personnel will total about $150,000 in salaries and benefits. Each kindergarten student will bring in roughly $5,000 of state funding to the school corporation, according to the new funding formula that counts kindergarten students as a whole student as opposed to the previous count, where half the amount of per-student money was sent for kindergartners.

“As we’ve been struggling along, I’ve been telling everyone to be patient. Once the economy improved, all the advantages we have will still be there,” Riggs said. “As people are getting more faith (in the economy), they’re beginning to move around again. … The rural community on the edge of Indianapolis with a strong middle-class attitude and background, with strong schools and teachers, is still there. Now people are getting confidence to move again, and we’re starting to see them come back.”

Administrators from Eastern Hancock, Greenfield-Central and Southern Hancock schools say they are not noticing a significant increase in kindergarten enrollment compared to last year. J.B. Stephens Principal Matt Davis said, however, that there’s still time for parents to sign up their students: the Greenfield-Central school last year had to add a new kindergarten class in the first week of the school year because there was a last-minute spike in enrollment.

Tony May, president of the Mt. Vernon school board, said he was not particularly surprised at the kindergarten enrollment trend when it was announced at the May board meeting. Perhaps the number surprised him, he said, but the growth didn’t, given the new houses he’s seen go up in recent months.

There’s enough space in the elementary schools right now to accommodate the new students, May added, but if the trend continues administrators will have to start thinking about maximizing space at its elementary schools.

Pull Quote

“I ended up adding one more section of kindergarten at each school, and I hope that’s enough.” 

-Mt. Vernon Superintendent Bill Riggs on the increase of kindergarten students in the school corporation