Public school enrollment figures close to 27,000
Number of students 377 greater than estimated
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.
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.”