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Archive for Saturday, August 25, 2007

Virtual students raise head count

August 25, 2007

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Lawrence schools enrollment up 300

A trend continues as Lawrence Public Schools released an unofficial student head count. Enlarge video

Dramatic increases in enrollment at the Lawrence Virtual School are driving an overall increase in the enrollment of the Lawrence school district.

According to preliminary figures from the district, 10,539 students enrolled in Lawrence public schools this year. That's up from 10,225 on the same day last year.

The numbers are preliminary and won't become official until Sept. 20, when the district does its state-mandated head count.

"These kinds of numbers tend to be very rubbery," superintendent Randy Weseman said. "I think we'll end up somewhere above our projections and where the numbers were at the beginning of last year."

Last year's Sept. 20 enrollment count was 10,303, which was also up from the year before. Lawrence school district spokeswoman Julie Boyle said the enrollment is 16 students above what the district had projected.

Until the virtual school opened in 2004, Lawrence schools had seen four years of declines.

The virtual school enrolled 756 students this year, an increase of more than 200 students at all grade levels.

"Actually, we put a lid on (virtual school enrollment) every year," Weseman said. "We've been somewhat aggressive, but not off the charts in terms of expanding enrollment."

Weseman said it was fair to assume the district would continue to raise the number of students permitted to enroll in the virtual school into the foreseeable future, based on demand. He did say, though, that the ever increasing number of virtual schools around the state will probably cut into the number of students who choose to enroll in Lawrence.

The Lawrence school enrolls students from across the state.

Another school that saw considerable growth this year was Langston Hughes School, on the west side of town. Langston Hughes is the district's third-largest brick-and-mortar elementary school and grew by 59 students this year.

Weseman said that he had expected Langston Hughes to grow and would have been troubled if it hadn't.

"We opened Langston Hughes significantly under capacity with the idea that it would grow into its boundary levels," Weseman said.

Weseman credited the school board with having the foresight not to design Langston Hughes or give it boundaries that would have filled it immediately. He said letting the school grow with its population made running the rest of the schools easier.

Overall, nine elementary schools saw increasing populations and six saw their populations decrease. Three junior highs have smaller enrollments than last year, while Southwest Junior High has 11 more.

"Every year there's an anomaly like that," Weseman said. "We can't predict that."

At the high school level, Lawrence High added 37 students and Free State added one student.

Weseman cautioned that the numbers at the secondary level are particularly fluid and change more than the elementary school level.

"In the next few weeks we'll try to follow up with people and find out why they didn't come back," Weseman said. "Usually the first indication we'll get is another school will call us and request a student's transcript."

Comments

kugrad 7 years ago

Preliminary totals change at the Sept. 20th official headcount. They also change during the year as students move in or out. Students may enroll in the virtual school throughout the year.

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Dorothy Hoyt-Reed 7 years ago

It's a funny headline. Couldn't all districts create computer generated students to up the enrollment.

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RightinLawrence 7 years ago

The January 20th count is the official count...what happens after that is irrelevant regarding funding which is the whole point of the numbers.

I would love to know why the district restricts the number of international exchange students to no more than 7 per high school. The schools receive funding for them, their English is excellent, their grade point average--even in a language other than their native--is higher than most of the "regular" students, they are well-supervised by their host family and organizational support, they aren't allowed to make trouble--drink, drugs--or they will be sent home...

Seems like an awesome way to not just boost numbers, but provide a great opportunity for cultural exchange. This year there is a student from Iraq attending one of our high schools. How awesome is that?? Why be so restrictive?? Seems like a win-win to me to increase those numbers. Seven is ridiculously low number for schools with the enrollment of LHS and Free State. CSIET a regulating organization for exchange programs recommends 12-14 students in schools the size of ours.

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