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For the past few years, schools in the Los Alamos School District have seen a mixed bag of decreases and increases in student enrollment.
During Thursday night’s Board of Education meeting at Mountain Elementary, Assistant Superintendent Paula Dean discussed the enrollment trends from 2006-2011. For the past few years, the school district has focused on building enrollment in grades K-6. In an effort to help this process, out-of-district students have been accepted into those grades and so far, the method seems to be working, however, it also is creating a backlog of students hoping to get into the middle and high schools.
Though the numbers tend to increase and decrease in the years in between 2006 and 2011, Aspen and Barranca Elementary have seen increases in enrollment this year, compared to 2006.
Chamisa Elementary and Mountain Elementary have seen decreases, while Piñon seems to have suffered slight decreases and both Los Alamos Middle School and Los Alamos High School have seen significant decreases in this year’s enrollment compared to that in 2006.
Though there’s been ebb and flow in the number of students in the district, data presented by Dean shows that there is currently an uptick in enrollment, which is partially attributed to the acceptance of out-of-district students to help grow enrollment.
In school year 2006-2007, enrollment was slightly above 3,600 for the district. In SY 2007-2008, that number decreased to a little below 3,450. It fell even further in SY 2008-2009, to a just above 3,350, then saw an increase in SY 2009-2010, when it reached almost 3,400. This school year, SY 2010-2011, shows an increase to nearly 3,500 total students.
Superintendent Gene Schmidt told board members Thursday night that administration is looking for direction as far as enrollment is concerned.
“We always talk about 3,400 (students),” he said, “we try to push above that, because there will be attrition.” He then asked whether the district should continue to focus on building grades K-6.
“That’s our key to success,” Board President Melanie McKinley said.
Currently, the school district is not accepting any out-of-district middle or high school students. Board Member Thelma Hahn asked whether it might be possible to accept some seventh grade students into the middle school, but McKinley seemed reluctant to agree to that, citing concerns with resources and construction that’s slated to begin at the middle school in the near future, as being a hindrance to adding students.
“We want to build a middle school at 550 (students),” Schmidt said. “Right now, we’re at 526.”
Though students are not being accepted, the waiting list for out-of-district students waiting to get into the middle and high schools keeps growing.
“We have a huge (waiting) list for the middle and high school,” Dean said. “We have 71 students at the moment waiting to go to the high school.”
Currently, there are 21 students on a waiting list for Aspen Elementary; seven for Barranca; 15 for Chamisa; 14 for Mountain; 14 for Piñon, 30 for LAMS; 71 for LAHS; and 15 for ninth grade, though realistic estimates may be about one-third fewer, because as Dean pointed out, some of the students on the waiting list already may have moved to Los Alamos and enrolled in the school of their choice.
Dean also said that administration has not begun calling those on the kindergarten waiting list because they are waiting to do the “kindergarten roundup” within the district, first, meaning they want to see how many in-district students will be enrolled in kindergarten, before they start accepting out-of-district students.
“The waiting list (for kindergarten) is the longest one,” Dean said. “Once we see what those numbers look like (for in-district kindergarten students), we’ll begin calling k’s.”