HANCOCK COUNTY — More students attend local schools, according to enrollment figures released this week by the county’s four school districts.
County schools welcomed 195 more students than last year, with three of the four districts reporting gains in the number of students enrolled in classes. The number of students who attend is significant because the figure is tied to funding. The state allocates roughly $5,500 per student to each district; increases this year are expected to bring in about $1.1 million of additional state funding.
Mt. Vernon School Corp. saw the greatest growth in the county, with an additional 121 students, bringing total enrollment to 3,677. The increase was seen evenly among grades throughout Mt. Vernon, though the district’s middle and high school classes saw the largest rises.
That increase will equate to more than $650,000 for the Mt. Vernon general fund.
Superintendent Shane Robbins said the increase won’t necessitate any immediate staffing additions or changes to the district’s schools, though it might in the future.
With the district’s Eighth Grade Academy housed in the high school, that building is nearing capacity, Robbins said.
District officials are waiting for recommendations from an Indianapolis research firm recently hired to survey the community and map out potential growth. The company, Odle McGuire Shook, will complete its research by 2016.
Many decisions district officials make will be contingent on that assessment, Robbins said.
The corporation currently divides students among five buildings: three elementary schools housing kindergarten through fifth grade, a middle school for sixth- and seventh-graders, and a high school for eighth- through 12th-graders. That setup could change as growth causes swells at certain grade levels.
“One of the things we’ll look at is reconfiguring potentially back to our original arrangement with an intermediate school,” Robbins said. “That could be something two years down the road or sooner, depending on the magnitude of the situation.”
Despite changes on the horizon, Tony May, Mt. Vernon school board president, said the district is prepared to make the adjustments necessary.
“Considering the issues we had just a few years ago with shrinking enrollment, this is a good problem to have,” he said. “It’s certainly encouraging to see this growth.”
With 4,500 students at its eight schools, Greenfield-Central School Corp. remains the county’s largest district; but it lost 15 students from last year’s total. However, the seventh- and ninth-grade classes grew by 24 and 33 students, respectively.
The biggest dip came in kindergarten, which has 62 students fewer than last year.
Greenfield-Central Superintendent Harold Olin said that, while it’s disconcerting to see the dip in kindergarten enrollment, it’s likely an anomaly. He predicts the district will recoup those number with future classes.
In the meantime, the drop likely will have no effect on district plans. He said the most likely outcome is that schools will shuffle teachers from grade to grade to accommodate for the smaller kindergarten class as it progresses through the system.
Southern Hancock School Corp. recorded an increase of 65 students, though officials noted that kindergarten and first-grade enrollment were lower than other elementary school grades.
While the district reported growth at all three elementary schools, assistant superintendent Bob Yoder warned that enrollment for Grades 2 through 5 are hovering around 250 per class, while kindergarten and first-grade classes come in at 221 and 223, respectively.
“When you hit those lower grades … it’s somewhat concerning,” Yoder said.
Still, Southern Hancock Superintendent Lisa Lantrip said she’s encouraged by the district’s enrollment. Enrollment is the highest since the 2009-10 school year, when 3,231 students were enrolled. This year’s increase equates to an estimated $350,000 boost for the district’s general fund.
Lantrip said she’s hopeful that the district will continue to record consistent growth.
“We know we have a couple of new housing additions that are in the initial stages, which should help us sustain our growth,” Lantrip said.
Eastern Hancock School Corp. reported 1,193 students, up 24 from last year. That will bring in an additional $132,000 of state funding. Ten of those students are in the district’s kindergarten class, and the school has hired three additional instructional aides to accommodate that growth, officials said.
Dave Pfaff, principal at Eastern Hancock Middle School and High School, said Grades 7 through 10 at the high school have recorded growth, and many of the additional students transferred from other school systems.
“When people move into our district from other schools, it’s a great pat on the back for our teachers and everyone who works here,” Pfaff said. “It must mean we’re doing something right, and I’m very proud of our staff here.”
All districts submitted enrollment figures to the Indiana Department of Education on Sept. 18, and the numbers will be verified by the state agency later in the year.
Staff writer Kristy Deer contributed to this report.
Greenfield-Central School Corp.: 4,500, down 15 students from 2014-15
Eastern Hancock School Corp.: 1,193, up 24 students from 2014-15
Mt. Vernon School Corp.: 3,677, up 121 students from 2014-15
Southern Hancock School Corp: 3,250, up 65 students from 2014-15