HANCOCK COUNTY — Two local school corporations are outpacing the rest when it comes to growing student populations.
Eastern Hancock School Corp. has seen a nearly 11 percent increase since 2011 in the number of students it serves, while Mt. Vernon has seen an approximately 9 percent increase. For the second year in a row, the district serving western Hancock County is the fastest growing in the county — growth administrators expect to stay steady in coming years.
Mt. Vernon administrators reported an increase of roughly 150 students this school year, and officials are already planning facility renovations to accommodate the rise in enrollment.
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Southern Hancock also saw growth this year, while Greenfield-Central saw a small dip in the number of students attending.
The number of students who attend local schools is significant because the figure is tied to state funding. The state funds operating costs for schools based on enrollment numbers. Schools that see gains in enrollment will receive more funding, which allows for salary increases or new hires, for example, while the loss of too many students could force schools to reduce staff numbers or programs — though no such plans are announced this year.
Greenfield-Central is still the largest school district in the county, reporting 4,493 students. Mt. Vernon follows with 3,832 students.
Mt. Vernon’s enrollment numbers have been on the rise since 2012, and administrators expect number to continue trending in that direction as the area grows, with enrollment reaching an estimated 4,000 by next year, Superintendent Shane Robbins said.Robbins said the district lifted some of its transfer student restrictions during his first year as superintendent in 2015, which has allowed more students to transfer in to the district. About 500 students live out of the district boundaries, he said.
Year-after-year gains have contributed to the district being able to create new positions as well as increase the district’s starting salary for teachers by $7,000, from about $31,000 to $38,000.
When schools see decreasing student populations, they’re sometimes forced to reduce staff numbers; Robbins is thankful he’s not in that position.
“I think we’re going to continue to grow,” Robbins said. “We’re in a nice position.”
The corporation is planning to make building changes to better accommodate a burgeoning population.
The school corporation has proposed renovating the middle school, which would add about 20 classrooms to the school and expand the cafeteria, allowing eighth-grade students to move from the high school to the middle school.
That would create room for population at both the high school and middle school to grow, Robbins said. The elementary schools already have space.
Southern Hancock School Corp.’s student population is now about 3,440 students, up 88 from last fall.The growth prompted officials to freeze transfer requests and hire additional staff. They’ll reopen enrollment to transfer students for second semester.
The higher number of students has also resulted in the district adding five new teachers to its roster shortly before school started.
Eastern Hancock, the county’s smallest school district, now has 1,210 students, up 17 from last fall. Since the 2011-12 school year, the district has seen a 10.8 percent increase in students, making it the school district that has grown most in the past five years.Eastern Hancock officials are happy to see growth within their small, rural district, Superintendent Vicki McGuire wrote in an email to the Daily Reporter.
Administrators hope word of mouth and positive student experiences have led to a growing student population, McGuire wrote.
This year, administrators created two new elementary teaching positions to accommodate growth in the lower grades.
A drop in student enrollment isn’t alarming to Greenfield-Central Superintendent Harold Olin. Administrators anticipated seeing fewer students this year after the 2015-16 kindergarten class proved smaller than average.Losing seven students is fairly insignificant for a district Greenfield-Central’s size, Olin said, and the district won’t have to make any changes to its roughly $31.4 operating budget as a result.
Olin said administrators are unsure why the district’s kindergarten classes have been smaller than the average — about 340 — the past two years.
This year’s class has about 310 youngsters, and last year’s class had about 295.
But the high school’s enrollment is growing, up 30 students compared with last year, which has helped keep enrollment from dropping significantly, Olin said.
“Every superintendent in the state wants to see their enrollment increase because more students equates to more money,” Olin said. “I’m a little disappointed we haven’t grown … but it’s going to have very little impact on us.”