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MISD enrollment up, but class sizes go down

The Mercer Island School District knew that this school year, a greater number of new students would be enrolling in district schools, but what they didn’t know is just how many. After the first week of school, the district estimates 114.04 new students, over the projections from earlier in the year.

Enrollment counts are done by full time equivalent or FTE, which counts students based on the amount of time they are at a school.

At the elementary level, West Mercer has the most new students, currently 62.5 FTE over what was budgeted. Lakeridge had approximately 18.5 new kids, while Island Park was under budget with four fewer than thought. At the high school, 26.66 extra students over the budgeted amount have attended the first weeks of school.

Dean Mack, the executive director of business services and human resources, said the larger number of students at West Mercer is partially attributed to families living in the condos and apartments located downtown.

“Everywhere else, we’re fairly close (to our projections),” he said during last week’s School Board meeting.

Despite the larger number of students, he said the district has actually improved its class size ratios, thanks in part to the Mercer Island Schools Foundation’s large donation this spring that helps fund teacher positions.

The average kindergarten class size is 22.2 students. The highest average at the elementary level was in the third grade, with 25.3 kids per teacher, but the highest single class was 28 students in one fourth-grade class. The average class size at the middle school was 22.38 students, while the high school is averaging 24.56 students this year.

The Mercer Island PTA’s Bridge the Gap campaign last school year specifically sought to lower class sizes.

“We are actually in an improved situation from the prior year,” said Mack. “This year, only one class is at an overload level, and it’s kindergarten.” An overloaded class has a teacher who sees more than 150 students per day. Under those conditions, teachers are typically offered extra help in the classroom, such as para-professionals.

Mack said there are no overloads at Islander Middle School, and while there are eight at the high school, last year there were 11. He said the administrative team at MIHS is still readjusting, expecting to bring four out of overloaded status.

“Last year there was so much consternation over this, and it seems to be completely solved,” said board member Janet Frohnmayer.

One thing that the district is watching very closely is the fact that they continue to be above the demographic trend and projections for enrollment.

“We’re going up at an even more rapid rate,” said Mack. “Currently, we’re at the level we thought we’d be at in 2012-2013.”

The district had budgeted for 3,893 students; so far, enrollment sits at 4,007.04. The district will continue to watch the levels throughout the school year.

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