The results of Loudoun schools’ annual head count are in.
In all, 81,235 students showed up to local public schools since the first day on Aug. 24. That’s 2,555 more students than this time last year.
The School Board received the updated enrollment figures at its Oct. 10 meeting. The actual enrollment totals for this year are 387 students less than what Legislative and Planning Department projected. That breaks down to 179 fewer elementary students, 68 fewer middle school students, and 140 fewer high school students than expected.
Schools that are at or near their building capacities saw that as good news. Eagle Ridge Middle School has 1,277 students, 70 above its capacity but 89 fewer than was expected to show up this year. Rock Ridge High School’s enrollment is 1,949, 106 students below projections. Freedom High School’s enrollment is 1,922, 125 below projections.
And the school that was likely most relieved with the student population count was Buffalo Trail Elementary, which saw 1,313 students enroll. That’s 330 above building capacity, but it could have been worse. School leaders were projecting another 95 to enroll.
Thirty-six schools saw higher than expected enrollment growth. Madison’s Trust Elementary enrolled 155 more students than projected, to total an enrollment of 999. Little River Elementary’s enrollment is 67 more than projected for a total of 804. Riverside High School had 54 more students than projected for a total enrollment of 1,593; John Champe High School had 95 more students than it expected for a total enrollment of 2,048.
Pinebrook Elementary’s enrollment is 46 students above estimates, for a total of 996—almost 100 students above the building’s capacity. And Cardinal Ridge Elementary’s student count is 54 higher than projections, for a total of 981, slightly above its building capacity. Hutchison Farm Elementary’s enrollment also rose above its building capacity, with 53 more students enrolled than expected, to bring the total to 850 students.
The school system continues to work on improving the accuracy of its enrollment projections.
School Board member Eric Hornberger (Ashburn) said some of the forecasts may be off because of changes in individual school’s programming. For example, many schools serve as regional sites for programs such as special education and gifted courses, so students are bussed to that school just for those programs. Students who are granted “special permission” to attend a school outside of their initially assigned school also effect the accuracy of enrollment projections.
One thing school leaders can agree on is that more students will continue to come. Kevin Lewis, assistant superintendent of Support Services, said the school division is expecting to add another 1,870 students next year. “That will bring the enrollment total for 2018-2019 to 83,105 students,” he said.
If that holds true, it will be the smallest incremental growth in recent years. The division grew by 2,603 students from fall 2013 to 2014 (73,461), and by 2,802 the next year (76,263), and by 2,738 from 2015 to 2016 (79,001).