County school enrollment is “flattening”

MCPS logoThe superintendent of schools said the rate of student enrollment increase in Montgomery County Public Schools seems to be “flattening,” based on enrollment counts this year.

MCPS Superintendent of Schools Jack Smith said at the Jan. 25 County Board of Education budget work session that staff predicts enrollment will increase by 1800 or 1900 students for the 2018-2019 school year, a drop from the projection included in the proposed budget in December. 

Staff predicted a 2,472- student increase from the current fiscal year’s budget (161,302 students) for a total number of 163,774 students enrolled at the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year, according to Smith’s proposed budget.

As of Sept. 30, 61,546 students had enrolled for the year.

Smith said last month if enrollment were to increase as staff projected, next school year would be the 10th consecutive year MCPS enrollment increased by more than 2,000, and that staff expected the growth rate to continue.

However, with newly updated enrollment totals for the current school year, Smith said the student enrollment increase likely will not hit the 2,000-student mark.

“It changes every hour of the day because students enter and withdraw, but it is interesting to note that our enrollment is flattening,” Smith said. 

Increases in enrollment from November to January involved fewer students than the same period over the last eight years.

“Last year in the month of November we gained 600 students; this year in the month of November we gained no students,” Smith told the school board Jan. 18. “We will gain a few here in the first few weeks of January but a much, much smaller number. So, that’s something I would call your attention to.” 

Board of Education member Jill Ortman-Fouse asked about the proposed budget including losing physical education and art teachers in elementary school overall. Nikki Diamond, MCPS chief financial officer then said the superintendent’s proposed budget includes fewer art and P.E. teachers because enrollment in the elementary school level is starting to decrease. Diamond said student enrollment has been growing most rapidly in elementary school in recent years, but it will move to middle and high school as the grades with larger enrollment get older. 

“We will actually graduate 12[00] or 1400 more students than will come into kindergarten,” Smith said. 

Central Office staff allocate the number of teachers in each school based on formulas involving student enrollment. 

“We know that every 25 classroom teachers represents a 1.0 [full-time equivalent] art, music and P.E. teacher, so if I were losing some classroom teachers, I would then lose the corresponding art, music and P.E., and that’s why you see some reduction there,” Diamond said. 

When enrollment goes down, then the number of teachers goes down, Smith said. When the number of teachers decreases, then the number of specials teachers (who teach art, music or physical education) also most go down.

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