Columbia school enrollment outpaces projections

Wednesday, January 12, 2011 | 11:10 p.m. CST; updated 11:25 p.m. CST, Wednesday, January 12, 2011

COLUMBIA — The Columbia School Board received a numbers lesson Wednesday night to make sense of how enrollments will impact school populations over the next few years.

Without a change in enrollment boundaries, school officials are concerned overcrowding will occur.

Enrollment has outpaced projections at Alpha Hart Lewis Elementary and Lange Middle School.

According to a presentation from Peter Stiepleman, assistant superintendent for elementary education, Alpha Hart Lewis' 2010-11 projected enrollment was 572, while actual enrollment is 671.

One possible option is to wait to solve the overcrowding until 2014 when a new elementary school is scheduled to open. Other options are making boundary changes for students who live south of Clark Lane and for students who live both north and south of Clark Lane or having students who at one time attended Shepard Elementary and moved to Alpha Hart Lewis return to Shepard.

Stiepleman said he is concerned about students attending Alpha Hart Lewis "because the class sizes at Alpha Hart are just too large."

He said he wants to meet with families before the board's next work session to get their feedback.

Because of the large population of students from Alpha Hart Lewis feeding into Lange Middle School, the middle school is projected to have an enrollment of 936 students for the 2011-12 school year, while enrollment for 2010-11 school year was 781.

Columbia Public Schools Superintendent Chris Belcher said that overall elementary and middle school enrollment data for the entire district was not too far off, but that there was growth in unexpected areas of Columbia.

"Certain areas grew, … but the district data for total population is not that far off the mark," Belcher said.

In the future, new technology will help plan for growth and changes in populations as new students move into the district, new families grow and other neighborhoods mature.

"We now have maps that plot every student in the district," he said.

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