Rising enrollment poses challenges

Early enrollment numbers show Seymour Community Schools continues to grow and in some cases has outgrown facilities.

The corporation has 114 more students than it did at the end of the last school year, business manager Steve Nauman said.

With 431 students, the freshman class at Seymour High School is the largest grade in the district, just beating out the second grade, he added.

Nauman provided a report on student enrollment during a recent school board meeting.

The district showed a total of 4,547 students on Aug. 11, the second day of school, which is just three students short of what administrators predicted when preparing the 2015 budget.

Numbers will fluctuate some in the first few weeks of school, Nauman said, with the state’s first official “count day” set for Sept. 11. That count will help determine how much money the school district receives in public education funds from the state.

“There is definitely growth in the corporation, and we hope that trend continues,” Nauman said. “It looks like it could be between 100 and 150 students each year, and that’s a good place to be.”

Greg Walker, superintendent of Brownstown Central Community School Corp., reported enrollment of 1,664 students, which is about where the corporation was on the last student count day taken in February. He said he feels “pretty good” about that figure.

“We are actually 21 students above what we projected at the end of the last school year,” he said.

Crothersville Community Schools Superintendent Terry Goodin said that district picked up four students over the summer.

“We were at 488 last year, and this year we’re at 492,” he said.

With the large freshman class, Seymour High School Principal Greg Prange said, the building’s enrollment went from 1,229 last school year to 1,394 this year.

Having more students is good but presents some challenges, too, he added.

“We’re out of space,” he said. “And we hope the public realizes there is a major need here.”

Any building expansion would be paid for by local property taxes.

The district has been doing smaller, $1.5 million to $2.5 million additions and renovations over the past few years at Emerson, Margaret R. Brown and Cortland elementary schools. School officials say they anticipate doing a much larger $10 million to $15 million project in the near future.

Prange said he hopes that larger project will be at the high school and include a bigger cafeteria, more classrooms and more lockers.

The school’s cafeteria isn’t big enough to handle the number of students currently eating lunch; and while many go outside to sit on picnic tables, that’s not possible if it’s raining or cold, he added.

The school recently changed out its round cafeteria tables with long rectangular ones in order to seat more students and to better use the space, Prange said.

Although they are able to fit all of the classes physically, Prange said some teachers have to share classrooms.

The last building addition at the high school was in 1996, when a new science wing and an auxiliary gymnasium were built.

Trustee Jeff Joray asked in light of growing enrollment if the district has been able to maintain its goal student-to-teacher ratio of about 25:1.

Nauman said there are some “bubbles” or large classrooms in the third grade in a couple of buildings right now, and they are looking at how to improve that situation.

“We take it very seriously,” he said. “Because we want to make sure all of our students get adequate instruction.”

Being prepared for more students has helped some, Prange added.

“We saw this coming as this large class came up through the system, and we planned ahead,” he said. “So it wasn’t a surprise, and we started adding more teachers last year.”

In the past couple of years, Seymour has added teachers in business, English, math, social studies, Spanish, ESL and special education, Prange said.

“By adding staff, our class sizes are still manageable right now,” he said. “We’ve added about 10 percent of our staff, which makes sense because our enrollment has increased about 10 percent.”

Prange said that, even though more students can present problems, it’s also good.

“I like to think our city is growing, and our school is not only offering good programming but good teachers,” he said. “Families want to send their kids here.”

Besides the large freshman class, Prange said there is an influx of non-English speaking students and out-of-district transfers.

With only 275 students in the current senior class, and the current eighth-grade class pushing 400 students, Prange said issues related to growth aren’t going away anytime soon.

He expects Seymour to continue to grow with local businesses and industries, including Schneck Medical Center and Cummins Seymour Engine Plant, recruiting more employees with school-aged children.

“It means we are able to serve more kids with the most comprehensive high school in the county,” Prange said. “And it gives us an opportunity to become more diverse.”

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