Big Spring ISD sees surge in enrollment

As far as problems go, it's a good one for the local school district to have.Big Spring Independent School District trustees learned during Thursday's special meeting enrollment has spiked significantly from the same time last year.Superintendent Steven Saldivar told the school board first-week enrollment figures for the 2012-2013 school year showed 4,028 students enrolled locally, a jump of 153 from last year at this time.The enrollment increase is most notable at the elementary level, particularly in kindergarten and fourth grade. The number of kindergarten students increased by 51 from the start of school last year, while fifth grade numbers jumped from 322 to 358 in the same time span.While elementary enrollment surged, secondary totals remained fairly stable — Saldivar noted an increase of only three students at those campuses.BSISD was not the only Howard County school district to see a spike in enrollment — Coahoma ISD's first week student numbers increased from 819 last year to 852 as of Thursday. Forsan ISD's numbers, meanwhile, remained stable, jumping by only three students from this time last year.With workers streaming into West Texas because of the oil boom, school district officials expected an enrollment increase, but not one of this magnitude.“We had a feeling it would increase,” Saldivar said. “Now, did we think we'd be over 4,000 students? No.”The increase is a good news/bad news scenario for BSISD — good news because increased student enrollment and attendance means more money for the district; bad news because the increase pushes BSISD beyond state-mandated student-teacher ratios at the elementary levels.Texas requires public schools to maintain a student-teacher ratio of, at most, 22 to 1 in grades kindergarten through 4. That ratio has been far exceeded at the kindergarten level, is being strained at fourth grade and is almost 30 to 1 at fifth grade.Thanks to its four new elementary campuses, the district has the classroom space to handle the overflow, but finding more teachers may be a problem.“We are not alone — other school districts are getting crowded,” Saldivar said. “It seems like everybody is looking to hire more teachers right now.”The school district will probably seek a waiver of the student-teacher ratio mandate, at least for this school year, while it devises a plan to deal with the enrollment increase, Saldivar said.“We understand we have a lot more kids in our classes — and that's a good thing,” he said. “In the next few days, we'll get together with principals and teachers and come up with a plan that will be good for both the district and the students.”In other business, trustees approved:• The district's budget and tax rate for fiscal year 2012-2013.• Employment of the following personnel: BSISD Lead Nurse Meredith Aleman; high school choir teacher Judith Ayer; high school English teacher Robin Diers; eighth grade math teacher Jacqueline Sampay; and Washington Elementary fourth grade teacher Brandi Sheldon.