• September 16, 2019

Elementary seeing highest enrollment numbers - Odessa American: ECISD

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Elementary seeing highest enrollment numbers

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Posted: Tuesday, September 10, 2019 3:00 pm

Enrollment at Ector County Independent School District this year has reached 33,730 — up 639 students from last year.

As of now, only Buice Elementary School has been closed to further enrollment. However, Communications Officer Mike Adkins said 18 other elementary schools have one or more grade levels that are closed to further enrollment.

Most of the bubble seems to be in elementary school at this time. Those campuses have a total of 16,460, according to district information. Deputy Superintendent Stephanie Howard said Barbara Jordan Elementary is up by 110 students and Murry Fly is up 127 students.

Fly and Cavazos Elementary have each received an additional assistant principal this summer because they they’re at 960 students. 

“We’re monitoring Jordan’s numbers to make a decision if we’re going to let them go ahead and post for another assistant principal,” Howard said.

The middle schools — Bonham, Bowie, Crockett, Ector, Wilson & Young and Nimitz — have 7,384.

The high schools — Odessa, Permian, George H.W. Bush New Tech Odessa, OCTEC and Odessa Collegiate Academy — have 8,689. OHS had 3,909 and Permian had 3,740 as of Aug. 27.

The Alternative Education Center had 93 students and the Ector County Youth Center had 21 for a total of 114, the information said.

“We have schools over capacity; schools at capacity,” Howard said. “The one thing we’ve been doing this year, Alicia Syverson, in her role (as assistant superintendent of student and school support), she has been working with our executive directors for elementary. They actually have a live tracking chart that they keep and it gets updated every day as we go. We used it a lot early on during registration and the first few days of school so that they could monitor enrollment at campuses — live actual enrollment — to just make determinations on where to close campuses, or to close grade levels because they were maxed out.”

As the numbers increased, so have class sizes in some areas to get more teachers in front of students, Howard said. Class-size waivers are required on an annual basis and Howard said that will be on the Sept. 24 board of trustees agenda.

On facilities, since some are at or over capacity, enrollment is a big part of that, she said. 

“Obviously, enrollment is a big piece in that. The bigger piece is building capacity and if we look at our middle schools, all of our middle school numbers are up from this time last year with the exception of one, Crockett. They’re not much below, so when we look at those numbers and the increases at some point we have to make some decisions about facilities and space and Buice. For example, that’s a space where we have more students moving into that attendance zone and yet we’re at capacity at that campus. That’s going to be part of the strategic planning process,” Howard said.

Superintendent Scott Muri has said the strategic plan will be rolled out this winter.

Howard said she knows facilities are on Muri’s radar, as well as many community members. She noted that enrollment will level off soon, but the long run, the district won’t stop growing.

“We’re not going to get any smaller. Those demographic studies really can guide our work as we start projecting enrollment for 2020-2021 because even though we just started school we’re only two, three months from going to work on that,” Howard said.

What the community wants also has to be taken into account.

“… If you’re going to do additions, construction-wise, that comes typically as part of a bond package. As far as temporary, you’ll increase some facility space with portables,” Howard said. “Most of our campuses can accommodate portables …”

Although portables are an option, Howard said it doesn’t take into account that items like hallways and cafeterias are built for a certain capacity.

 “… You think about your library media center, you think about gymnasiums and space like that that’s built for a certain capacity and so you can add five portables and have room for more students but then you still that doesn’t solve the challenges you have in the cafeteria that’s not big enough, or common areas that aren’t big enough to accommodate the number of students you’re now serving. The more lunch periods you run, the more our instructional leaders are tied up. Our principals are tied up with lunch duty … the less time they’re able to be out in the classrooms and working with teachers where we need them,” Howard said.

She added that teachers and principals are essential to academic performance.

“… Nice facilities make a difference for recruitment and retention, but the bottom line when you talk about school performance and school improvement is the teacher and the principal with a lot of support from the district,” Howard said.

Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Gregory Nelson said in a recent interview that the district is short 346 teachers. There were 174 openings at the elementary level and 172 at the secondary.

“Typically high school needs fewer than elementary,” Nelson said. “In the past, we’ve seen that trend but it’s always fairly close.”

He said nurses are about the only area that has its openings filled. The highest need is in English language arts, math and social studies.

“The area with the least amount of difficulty hiring for secondary is foreign languages. An area that’s the least difficult to hire for in elementary seems to be reading and second grade,” Nelson said.  

He said English language arts spots have been hard to fill the past couple of years.

“We offered a sign-on bonus. We’ve going to have to consider adding a stipend possibly for ELAR. The purpose of the stipend is for our hardest to fill areas and right now ELAR for the second year is the hardest to fill …,” Nelson said.

A bonus is a one-time incentive and a stipend can be renewable if the person continues to do that job.

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