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Student numbers surprise schools
Attendance from the first two days suggest that enrollment projections were low.
By JEFFREY S. SOLOCHEK
Published August 22, 2007
LAND O'LAKES - Superintendent Heather Fiorentino huddled with senior staff Tuesday to crunch attendance numbers.
At issue: Where to deploy more teachers, whether to reassign others and where to place additional portables.
Why? The Pasco County School District's first day enrollment was up 2,068 from the same time a year ago, leading Fiorentino and her team to guess that their early projections of slight growth might be a little low.
Consider these Day 1 stats:
- Double Branch Elementary in Wesley Chapel, a new school built for 762 students, opened with 799. The district expected 691.
- Charles Rushe Middle School in Land O'Lakes made its debut with 1,180 students. It was projected to open with 1,100.
- Wiregrass Ranch High School in Wesley Chapel planned for 1,150 students. Nearly 1,300 showed up for the first day.
Several other schools already were within striking distance of their projected average daily attendance for the year, too.
Granted, Fiorentino said, the first day rarely offers real guidance on such matters, as some registered families never show up, while others have yet to register. That's why the district takes new counts on the fifth and 10th days of classes.
"We'll be discussing this for the next several weeks," the superintendent said. "The conversation will start today."
Wiregrass Ranch principal Ray Bonti already has requested five additional teachers, one for each of the five primary areas of study English, math, science, social studies and reading.
"We have the physical space for the students," he said. "The only problem is, we were projected and we hired teachers based on 1,150 students."
Bonti said he understood that the district often doesn't release extra teachers until enrollment settles. But "the kids have shown up," he said, adding that several classes have too many students.
More than 180 students registered at Wiregrass Ranch over the summer, with an additional 50 or so showing up Monday and Tuesday. The freshman class, expected to be about 400 teens, already is at 500.
Rushe Middle principal Dave Estabrook said he was trying to manage attendance without asking for more teachers just yet. He figured some changes to student class schedules would keep class sizes low enough while the numbers fall out.
"Even though we opened with that amount, we need to have more time go by before we can determine any strategies," Estabrook said.
He, like Bonti, was not surprised by the high numbers. Both said enrollment projections are as much art as science, and no formula is infallible.
"We all know Central Pasco is going to grow, and we are prepared for it to grow," Estabrook said.
The district portables it will be able to move as necessary by October, Fiorentino said. It has teaching jobs it can open if needed, too, she said.
"We froze all positions until we could see the whites of their eyes," Fiorentino said. And schools like Double Branch, Rushe and Wiregrass Ranch can see them now.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.