Downvalley schools feel the growth | AspenTimes.com

Downvalley schools feel the growth

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Kelley Cox/Post IndependentGlenwood Springs High School students head back across Grand Avenue to school at the end of lunch hour on Tuesday. Enrollment in both school districts in Garfield County is up.

GARFIELD COUNTY ” Growth. In a word, that sums up the experience of school districts in Garfield County, where preliminary enrollment numbers suggest a twofold increase in new students for both the Roaring Fork School District Re-1 and Garfield School District Re-2.

According to Roaring Fork Superintendent Judy Haptonstall, preliminary numbers indicate district enrollment is up about 4 percent over the prior school year, though the numbers are likely to fluctuate through September. A more accurate head count will be taken Oct. 1.

“It looks like we are at about 4 percent growth,” Haptonstall said. “We are used to being about 1 to 2 percent growth, so if this holds steady, we would be double over last year.”

The Roaring Fork School District includes schools in Basalt, Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Initial enrollment numbers for the first week of school in the district totaled 5,226 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, up from 5,022 students as of Oct. 1, 2007. That increase would also be the highest the district has seen in the past decade.

The state has set the Oct. 1 date for districts across Colorado to get a more accurate student count, after districts figure out which students were enrolled, but have moved out of the area without notifying the district, and how many enrollees weren’t present at the start of the school year.

“That 4 percent could dwindle,” Haptonstall said.

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“We have a month before we tie the numbers down,” agreed Theresa Hamilton, Re-2 director of districtwide services. “The counts are dependent on so many things.”

Hamilton said Re-2 ” which includes schools in Rifle, Silt and New Castle ” anticipated a 5 percent increase over last year’s count for new students. Early numbers indicated a 6 to 7 percent increase, but the number had already dropped to 5.5 percdent by Sept. 2, she said.

Early numbers show Re-2 with a total of 4,640 students ” an increase of 257 from the prior school year. Most of the growth is at the middle-school level.

“Rifle Middle School is probably our largest school in the district now,” Hamilton said. “We’ve got four modular classrooms out there at this point and the school is at 775 students. That is bigger than both of our high schools.”

Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood Springs also is bursting at the seems again this fall, with nearly 600 students. The school’s enrollment for the 2006-’07 school year was 554. The district has placed four modular classrooms at the school to alleviate some of the overcrowding.

“It appears they are up about 30 students this year,” Haptonstall said. “But that could be way off.”

For Re-2, with the addition of Elk Creek Elementary School in New Castle and a new Riverside Middle School, the growth hasn’t been as noticeable. For the 2007-’08 school year, Kathryn Senor Elementary in New Castle recorded 548 students at its October count last year, while this fall’s preliminary numbers are at 337. Elk Creek enrollment is at about 272.

Taken together, that’s 609 students in kindergarten through fourth grade ” an increase of 61 students, or 11 percent, over 2007-’08.

“That is pretty significant for an area like New Castle,” Hamilton said. “But now that we’ve got a second elementary school ” thanks to the 2006 bond passed by voters ” we’ve got a little room for growth.”

jgardner@postindependent.com

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