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Enrollment at Wichita schools hits 50,639 - the highest since 1975

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Monday, Sep. 24, 2012, at 5:05 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, March 11, 2013, at 1:48 p.m.

Enrollment at Wichita public schools this year has reached 50,639 students, up more than 530 from last year and the highest since 1975.

Enrollment has grown by more than 1,570 students over the past 10 years.

“It’s definitely a positive,” superintendent John Allison said Monday. “I think it speaks highly of our community, as they have choices on where their students are going to go to school, and we continue to see those numbers inch up.”

The Wichita district opened five new school buildings this fall, after approving new attendance boundaries and closing or relocating five older schools.

The largest growth this year is in the district’s elementary schools, with an increase of 439 students. Middle school enrollment is the highest since 2004, with 10,217 students.

Each year on Sept. 20, students statewide are counted for their schools’ official enrollments. The number of students enrolled is used to determine the district’s per-student state funding for the school year – this year, $3,838 for every full-time student.

The National Center for Education Statistics predicts that school enrollment across the country will hit record levels every year through at least 2020, reflecting expected increases in the size of the school-age population.

Wichita officials said boundary changes that went into effect this fall had an impact on enrollment at several schools.

The new Enders Elementary, for instance – which replaced Lewis Open Magnet and also draws students from surrounding neighborhoods on South Osage – grew by nearly 300 students.

Isely Traditional Magnet Elementary, which moved to a new building in Bel Aire, grew by 194 students. Christa McAuliffe Academy, a K-8 school at 143rd East and Pawnee, started the year with 552 students. Both schools exceeded projections by about 50 students each.

Enrollment at Heights High School, meanwhile, fell by 157 students thanks to boundary changes aimed at reducing crowding at the school. The new Ortiz Elementary, at 33rd North and Arkansas, started the year with 375 students.

School board president Lynn Rogers said at Monday night’s board meeting that the overall enrollment increase is “good news for local taxpayers as well as the district. … We had a number of schools that really had some terrific growth.”

Additional state funding could finance additional teachers and paraprofessionals in buildings where enrollment increased more than expected, he said.

“People are seeing that there are quality programs. There are very caring staff, and kids are getting a great education,” Rogers said.

“This urban district and the urban experience really is unique, and I think people are recognizing that.”

Also on Monday, board members voted 6-0 to adopt a new district map that reflects a 9,574-person increase in the school district since 2000 and to ensure equal representation at the ballot box.

Three of the six board districts — Districts 1, 2 and 6 (primarily north, northeast and east Wichita) — had populations above the target per-district number: 54,316; the remaining three (primarily south and west Wichita) were below the target.

The new map affects 11 precincts and about 15,800 residents. For a closer look at the new map, visit boedistrict.usd259.org.

Reach Suzanne Perez Tobias at 316-268-6567 or stobias@wichitaeagle.com.

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