Basalt graduating class hits 100 for first time |

Basalt graduating class hits 100 for first time

BASALT ” When seniors at Basalt High School march up to receive their diplomas Saturday, it will be the first time the graduating class in the town reaches 100 students. It won’t be the last.

Enrollment is soaring in the high school and the sizes of lower grades indicate the number of graduates will continue to exceed 100 for years to come.

The enrollment at Basalt High School, grades nine through 12, was 381 during the 1999-2000 school year, according to statistics from the Roaring Fork School District. There were 74 graduates that year.

Enrollment grew by a modest amount for most of this decade, then jumped in 2006-07 by 50 students over the prior year. This year was up by another 20 students. Total enrollment at the school reached 497.

That’s a far cry from the mid-1960s, when Basalt was a still a ranching town with dirt roads and a downtown boardwalk. Mayor Leroy Duroux graduated in 1966-67 in a class of 15.

Even in the first three years of this decade, the number of graduates was fewer than 80.

“We saw statistically this bubble coming through,” said Basalt High School Principal Jim Waddick, who is retiring this summer after eight years at the helm.

The number of graduates has “hovered at about the same rate,” Waddick said. “This year bumped up a little.”

There were 85 graduates last year. Waddick anticipated 100 exactly this year. This year’s valedictorian is Nuala Del Piccolo, who will continue her education at Johns Hopkins University, Waddick said.

The high school was constructed in 1996 to deal with climbing enrollments in Basalt, which is part of a school district that includes Carbondale and Glenwood Springs. Six classrooms and two art rooms were added before the 2006-07 session because of additional growth.

Waddick said the locker capacity is 500, so the school might have to make minor adjustments in the short term to deal with climbing enrollments.

This year’s senior class was also unique in its makeup. Typically the mix of students at the high school during Waddick’s tenure has been 70 percent Anglo to 30 percent Latino, he said. This year’s mix was 60 percent Anglo and 40 percent Latino, according to Waddick.

The mix is consistently 50-50 at Basalt Elementary School, where enrollment has been steady over the last four years. The number of students in kindergarten through fourth grade has hovered between 550 and 570 over that period. School officials expect it to reach 590 next year.

Each elementary school grade is forecast to exceed 100 students next year. There are already 133 kids enrolled in kindergarten next year, possibly making it the largest class ever.

There is no obvious explanation for the growth in the schools, other than Basalt itself is growing. Waddick said new neighborhoods like Willits appear to be attracting families. However, soaring housing costs make it unlikely that low-income families are moving into the area. Some students are coming from out of district, Waddick noted.

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