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Column: District 518 seeks input on enrollment growth

District 518

WORTHINGTON -- The article this week is on the enrollment number and projections for District 518. Each week we continue to enroll students practically on a daily basis, with daily enrollments ranging from two to eight students a day. While we continue to enroll students on a regular basis, we do have some families choose to move during the year for a variety of reasons. As the district works to balance these numbers and make accurate projections, the challenge continues to be how as community we will address the space needs in the future years.

The current enrollment in each of the buildings as of Wednesday this week is as follows:

* Prairie Elementary: 1,119 students

* Middle School: 778 students

* High School: 725 students

* Alternative Learning Center: 93 students

* Total Enrollment: 2,715 students

The enrollment for last year in District 518 was 2,599, so the number of student increase this year is 116 students or a 4.46 percent increase. In the upcoming years we are projecting an increase each year in the range from 2 to 3.6 percent, which are conservative estimates. These percentages equate to an increase of 55 to 99 new students each year.

Currently, the smallest class in Prairie Elementary is 209 students; the largest is 251 students. In coming years the smallest class is projected to be at about 225 students, while the largest will be around 275 students -- which will be well above the building's designed capacity. At the middle school, the smallest class this year is 181 students and the largest is 208, with projections indicating that the smallest class being 204 students and the largest being about 225 students four years from now. This same pattern exists at the high school, with the smallest class being 151 students and the largest being 206. Enrollment projections show in four years that the smallest class will be 192 students and the largest around 215 students.

The enrollment growth is a wonderful thing -- particularly in times when many schools are declining -- so District 518 is in an enviable position. This is not only positive for our school system, but the community as a whole, which can help the overall economy of the region. These projections do not take into account other potential growth to the district like open enrollment, increased available housing, current business expansion or new business to the community. Each of these could increase enrollment at a more dramatic rate, which can put added pressure on the current system.

As the school continues to address its future goals and direction, we encourage you to participate and help to provide input in our success. A consultant has been hired to help lead a study on the district's needs and address the current enrollment growth. A task force will be formed to participate in this planning and we hope that when you are asked, that you will be able to participate in the process. A community meeting will be held during the process to help keep everyone involved and informed of the potential direction of the district in order to address the enrollment growth.

District 518 would like to thank you for the support and commitment to our children currently as well as in the future. These future leaders will help to make our community, state and country a wonderful place to live.

John Landgaard is District 518's superintendent.