School enrollment is busting out all over, it seems.
Fueled by the oil industry hiring boom, most area public schools are seeing a surge in enrollment figures, officials confirmed.
Nowhere is the increase more notable than at Big Spring Independent School District, which is recording enrollment figures not seen in more than a decade.
The latest count shows 4,148 students enrolled at BSISD campuses, an increase of more than 200 from the same time last year — and that figure doesn't take into account more than 80 children enrolled in pre-kindergarten classes.
This marks the first time the local district has surpassed the 4,000 figure since the 2000-01 school year, officials said.
The spike in enrollment isn't limited to Big Spring, either. Both Coahoma and Stanton districts report increases — Coahoma's student rolls jumped from 819 to 852, while Stanton notes an increase of 48 students from this time last year and Grady ISD reports an additional 10 students from September of last year.
Forsan enrollment, meanwhile is fairly stable — the district reports an increase of only nine students compared to the same time last year — but that can be accounted for in the lack of available housing within the district, officials said.
“I think we only have three homes for sale in the entire district,” FISD Superintendent Randy Johnson said. “We had a fair number of move-in students this year, but that was balanced by people who moved out.”
Enrollment at Sands Consolidated Independent School District, on the other hand, has been rock stable — district enrollment at the start of the school year was 217, the same figure as last year.
Anne McClarty, executive director of instruction and personnel for Big Spring ISD, said officials were expecting an enrollment increase, but nothing like the district is currently experiencing.
“I don't think anyone was expecting the increase we've had,” she said.
The local increase is most notable at the elementary schools in general, and specifically at the kindergarten level, which has 59 more students than this time last year. Overall elementary enrollment stands at 2,163 students, up 121 from a year ago.
Districts are not going to cry about increased enrollment — higher attendance means more state money for the schools in question — but the surge is not without its drawbacks.
The biggest concern is a state-mandated student-teacher ratio of 22 to 1 in grades kindergarten through fourth — a standard that has been exceeded at both Big Spring and Coahoma. Coahoma ISD has had to hire an additional kindergarten teacher, while Big Spring ISD is searching for an instructor at the same grade level.
But with school districts across West Texas scrambling to find teachers, needing an instructor and finding one are two separate things, McClarty said.
“We're still looking for one,” she said. “But it's a hard chore — we're in the same boat as everyone else. We'll probably have to wait for December and the (college) graduates who will be available then.”
The district also has had to shuffle teachers from one campus to the next — McClarty said teachers had to be transferred from Moss Elementary to Marcy Elementary to deal with increased enrollment at the latter campus.
The good news is Big Spring is well-equipped for the enrollment increase, space-wise. The four new elementary campuses opened this school year have more than enough classrooms to handle the additional students.
“Thank goodness we built those new elementaries,” BSISD Trustee Phil Furqueron said at last week's school board meeting. “If we hadn't, we'd have to buy portable classrooms.”
Whether increased enrollment is a temporary situation or indicative of a long-term trend is anyone's guess, officials conceded, saying they will keep a close eye on enrollment trends and adapt accordingly.
“We're prepared for additional growth,” Coahoma ISD Superintendent Amy Jacobs said. “You have to be prepared for a certain amount of volatility in that regard.”