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City school enrollment projected to rise
Eleven percent over five years

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Enrollment in Martinsville City Public Schools is projected to grow 11.43 percent (233 students) in five years under one enrollment forecast model, according to Superintendent Pam Heath.

After a number of years of enrollment declines in the school division, enrollment is thought to have bottomed out last year and has started rising, Heath told the city school board Monday.

Average daily membership (ADM) is up several students, whereas usually ADM has been down a little as of March 30 in recent years, officials said.

Under one forecast, the school division’s enrollment is projected in five years to grow by 350 students in kindergarten though fifth grade and to decline a total of 117 students in the middle and high schools, for a net increase of 233 students, Heath said.

The current ADM is about 2,130, Heath said.

In an interview, she said the company Information Management Systems made the enrollment projections. The company used three methods to project enrollment. The one Heath is citing is “the blended method. It’s not as extreme as the other two,” she said.

Heath said she didn’t know exactly what factors led the company to forecast the enrollment increase.

“It’s a prediction. You have to be aware” and monitor the situation, she said.

“I guess it (the projected enrollment growth) could impact staffing in terms of numbers of teachers,” Heath said. “Class sizes, we want to watch and make sure they do not get too large.”

School division officials also will be monitoring space capacity, Heath said.

“Patrick Henry (Elementary) is pretty full already and doesn’t have much spare room at all. Albert Harris (Elementary) has a little bit,” she said. “We would have to start really seeing some difference to make some changes there.”

It’s “way too early to conjecture” whether additional space would have to be built, she said.

She also pointed out that when enrollment increases, the division receives more state funding, which is based on ADM.

“I see it as a totally positive thing to see our numbers going up,” Heath said. The area “lost so much in terms of population when families left with job losses” over more than a decade, she said.

“Our employment is improving. The economy is turning around,” she said. She added that she hopes “this is a sign of good things to come.”

Henry County Schools Superintendent Jared Cotton shared recent year enrollment figures and three-year enrollment projections with the county board of supervisors in February. The school division’s enrollment was 7,068 in 2011, 7,053 in 2012 and 7,068 in 2013. Enrollment is projected to decline to 7,013 in 2014, to 6,977 in 2015 and 6,877 in 2016. That’s a projected loss of 191 students (2.7 percent) over three years.

“...It is difficult to predict the impact of decreased enrollment on staff and facilities at this time,” Cotton wrote in an email. “Even though we are looking at a decrease in overall student enrollment over the next few years, we don’t have data to tell us where the specific decreases will be.”

“For example,” he added, “you can lose a small number of students from each of our schools without having an impact on staffing. For example, the students that we are losing may come from different grade levels within a particular school. As a result, this may have no effect on staffing at that school. This is sometimes a difficult concept to grasp because most people assume that decreases in enrollment automatically leads to a decrease in staffing.”

  Cotton said school division officials will continue to monitor capacity in the schools each year to determine if adjustments in facilities need to be made. “As student enrollment decreases, we will have to look at solutions such as adjusting attendance zones to accommodate students as needed,” he added. 

In other business at the Martinsville School Board meeting Monday, Heath said the school division’s “new website ... is up and running.” She praised Jennifer Martin, the division’s communications and outreach coordinator; Crystal Ritchson, coordinator of career development; and Jason Wyatt, network administrator, for their parts on that project.

In an interview, Heath said the website is part of a total rebranding effort that began almost two years ago. That included updating the logo, mission statement and website, she said.

The new logo retains elements of the old logo (including a figure of a man reaching for stars) but adds a globe to “symbolize we are a global economy,” Heath said. “The world is changing,” she added.

The new mission statement is, “Bringing Life to Learning.” Heath explained: “Education is learning to prepare you for real life. We want students to be successful and productive in a global economy.”

HD Web Studio of Martinsville was hired for the project, Heath said.

“We have a lot of content. We wanted to organize it in a way that is easily accessible to parents, students, staff, community and business partners,” she said.

The updated website incorporates social media (links to Facebook and Heath’s Twitter account), she said.

More things will be added in the future, such as a secure shopping cart feature by which parents can pay for their children’s lunches, Heath said. Also, the school division hopes “to connect more closely with alumni,” Heath said.

The cost of the website project was not immediately available.


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