Loudoun school leaders knew they’d see another year of enrollment growth, but they underestimated how much.
More students than expected showed up at 57 of the county’s 87 schools so far this academic year. One school, Hutchison Farm Elementary School in South Riding has 75 more students than projected, and Loudoun County High School has 70 more students.
In all, 78,680 students showed up to Loudoun public schools since the first day Aug. 29. That’s just 15 off of the Planning and Legislative Services Department’s projections. But some of the growth was concentrated in a handful of schools and, by the end of the month, the school system expects another 200 to 300 students will enroll.
“Typically, we will only gain students at this point,” School Board Chairman Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) said.
The School Board received the enrollment update from Assistant Superintendent of Support Services Kevin Lewis at its meeting Tuesday.
The report showed that 21 of the school buildings are housing more students than they’re designed to hold. Mercer Middle School in South Riding is considered the most overcrowded school in the county, with 1,857 students, 507 over its building’s capacity.
Lewis also noted that the more kindergartners enrolled in the public school system than expected—240 more. “That is probably connected to full-day kindergarten,” he added. The school division expanded its full-day kindergarten program this year to provide it to half of the county’s kindergartners. Superintendent Eric Williams has said by next year, the plan is to expand that to three-fourths of the kindergartners.
There was a bit of good news in Lewis’ report. Twenty schools are seeing enrollment numbers well below what they planned for. Buffalo Trail Elementary near Aldie has counted 1,185 students in the past 10 days, 121 fewer than projected. “Which is a good thing because it was projected to be quite overcrowded,” Hornberger said.
Freedom High School, in the high growth area of South Riding, saw 1,715 students, 139 fewer than expected.
The enrollment count taken 10 days into the school year is considered a preliminary report. The official count is done each year on Sept. 30. [See the full enrollment report here.]
The growing number of new families moving into the southern end of the county is triggering another round of attendance boundary changes this fall. The board will set that motion into progress Oct. 18, and is expected to adopt new boundaries Dec. 13. The attendance boundary changes could impact students in 23 schools, and will be done ahead of the opening of an unnamed middle school, MS-7, which will open in the fall of 2018 at 40929 Braddock Road near Aldie.
Sam Adamo, executive director of Planning and Legislative Services Department, walked School Board members through the complicated formula he and his staff use to come up with annual enrollment forecasts.
To pinpoint an annual student population figure, the school system looks at birth rates, number of housing units approved by the county Board of Supervisors, economic growth, and developments that could draw more families, like Metro’s Silver Line. That figure helps guide school leaders’ staffing and budget decisions and plans to build new schools.
“There is a lot of information to monitor, but it is important that we keep an eye on all of this,” he said.
The current formula calls for .8 students from single-family detached homes, .55 students from single-family attached homes, and .32 students from multi-family homes, but those are fluid numbers.
As board members consumed the information, some with wide eyes, Superintendent Williams joked, “Remember, this is going to be on the test.”