Pub­lic school en­roll­ment fig­ures close to 27,000

Num­ber of stu­dents 377 greater than es­ti­mated

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By JAMIE ANFENSON-COMEAU jan­fen­son-comeau@somd­

Charles County Pub­lic Schools has al­most 400 more stu­dents than ini­tially an­tic­i­pated, re­quir­ing school of­fi­cials to hire ad­di­tional staff, ac­cord­ing to un­of­fi­cial num­bers pre­sented at Tues­day’s school board meet­ing.

“We are still staffing be­cause of those in­creased num­bers,” said Deputy Su­per­in­ten­dent Amy Holl­stein. “That’s a chal­lenge for us, as th­ese num­bers are a lit­tle higher than we an­tic­i­pated, par­tic­u­larly for ele­men­tary schools.”

Michael Heim, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of sup­port­ing ser­vices, said un­of­fi­cial en­roll­ment num­bers as of Sept. 30 equalled 26,925 stu­dents, which, if con­firmed, would be the high­est en­roll­ment in his­tory, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the school sys­tem.

Su­per­in­ten­dent Kim­ber-

ly Hill said the in­crease was 535 stu­dents over last year’s Sept. 30 en­roll­ment, and is the largest en­roll­ment in­crease since 2004.

The school sys­tem ex­pe­ri­enced rapid en­roll­ment in­creases in the past, with more than 3,000 ad­di­tional stu­dents between 2000 and 2006, and reached a high of 26,850 in the 20102011 school year be­fore de­clin­ing by al­most 600 stu­dents between 2012 and 2015, ac­cord­ing to in­for­ma­tion pro­vided by the school sys­tem.

The in­crease was 377 stu­dents greater than es­ti­mated, Heim said.

“It was quite a jump com­pared to re­cent years,” Heim said. “We were quite sur­prised by this year’s in­crease.”

Heim said the en­roll­ment es­ti­mates are based on a num­ber of sources, in­clud­ing pre­vi­ous en­roll­ment changes, yield fac­tors from the Charles County Depart­ment of Plan­ning and Growth Man­age­ment, data from the Mary­land State Depart­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion and the Mary­land Depart­ment of Plan­ning, past re­dis­trict­ing trends and pri­vate and home­school­ing en­roll­ment trends.

“There is some guess­ing that goes into it, to be hon­est and up­front with you,” Heim told the school board.

“We then use that in­for­ma­tion to cre­ate two, three, five and 10 year av­er­age trends for each school,” Heim said.

The bulk of the unan­tic­i­pated in­crease was at the ele­men­tary school level. The great­est dif­fer­ence was at Berry Ele­men­tary, which had 79 stu­dents more than had been an­tic­i­pated for this school year, for an en­roll­ment of 967.

Hill said the en­roll­ment num­bers will not be­come of­fi­cial un­til staff has ver­i­fied the class lists and stu­dents’ el­i­gi­bil­ity sta­tus; then the num­bers must be ap­proved by MSDE, which usu­ally oc­curs in early Novem­ber.

School board chair­man Michael Lukas asked how the ad­di­tional stu­dents would im­pact the bud­get.

“We bud­get based on the num­bers of stu­dents we think we’re go­ing to have … how do we rec­on­cile that?” Lukas asked.

Hill said ad­min­is­tra­tion has been meet­ing with prin­ci­pals to en­sure they have the staff they need to han­dle the in­crease.

“Our job, and Mr. [Ran­dolph] So­tomayor’s job is to fig­ure out how to pay for that at this point,” Hill said. “We’ve been able to make that hap­pen within our cur­rent bud­get right now.”

The school sys­tem also re­ceived a clean fi­nan­cial au­dit from CliftonLarsenAllen LLP, the school sys­tems’s in­de­pen­dent au­dit­ing firm.

“We did is­sue a clean opin­ion,” said Wil­liam Early, prin­ci­pal with CliftonLarsenAllen. “You do not have any de­fi­cien­cies or ma­te­rial weak­nesses, which is some­thing to be rather proud of.”

This is the sixth straight year that the school sys­tem has had a clean au­dit, said Ran­dolph So­tomayor, as­sis­tant su­per­in­ten­dent of fis­cal ser­vices.

An in­de­pen­dent fi­nan­cial au­dit is re­quired by law to be per­formed yearly, with the re­sults re­ported to the Charles County Board of Com­mis­sion­ers and MSDE, So­tomayor said.

At the end of the meet­ing, six com­mu­nity mem­bers spoke to the board. Two par­ents wished to draw at­ten­tion to the needs of stu­dents with dys­lexia, with Oc­to­ber be­ing Dys­lexia Aware­ness Month.

Tracy Wolff, co-founder of the Charles County chap­ter of Decoding Dys­lexia Mary­land, said that more needs to be done to pro­vide sup­port for stu­dents such as her daugh­ter who has dys­lexia, which is de­fined as a neu­ro­bi­o­log­i­cal learn­ing dis­abil­ity char­ac­ter­ized by poor spelling and decoding abil­i­ties rel­a­tive to other cog­ni­tive abil­i­ties, ac­cord­ing to the In­ter­na­tional Dys­lexia As­so­ci­a­tion.

“We need early iden­ti­fi­ca­tion, uni­ver­sal screen­ing, ev­i­dence-based ap­proaches and progress mon­i­tor­ing,” Wolff said. “My goal is to ad­vo­cate not only for my daugh­ter but oth­ers who are in the sys­tem go­ing un­de­tected.”

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