The two smallest public school corporations in Jackson County have a reason to be excited.
As of Tuesday, Crothersville Community School Corp. had enrollment of 451, compared to 407 on the first average daily membership count in September 2018.
Medora Community School Corp. is at 155 right now, whereas the September 2018 ADM was 152.
Seymour Community School Corp., the largest in the county, topped 5,000 students for the first time, but the second-largest in the county, Brownstown Central Community School Corp., had a slight drop from 1,587 in September 2018 to 1,574 currently.
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The elementary school had the biggest jump in Crothersville, going from 218 students nearly a year ago to 249 this school year. In February 2019, the school’s enrollment was 213.
The junior-senior high school also saw an increase, from 189 in September 2018 to 202 now. It was at 187 in February.
Elementary Principal Drew Markel and junior-senior high school Principal Adam Robinson both said they are optimistic the numbers will continue to grow as the official count day approaches in September.
"At Crothersville, our size allows us to know our kids and truly work with them individually," Robinson said. "From our career technical courses to the associate degree, we are striving to meet our kids’ individual needs."
The school has seven new teachers this school year: Five in the elementary and two in the junior-senior high school.
"We also had a staff member become certified in science to offer more courses that way," Robinson said.
"We are excited to have another wonderful year here at Crothersville," he said. "I believe we have the best kids, staff and career pathways. I truly believe we will continue to grow and thrive."
While Medora has had a slight increase, there is a significant increase if you look more closely at the numbers, Dean of Students Kara Hunt said.
At the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, Medora Elementary School, which includes kindergarten through sixth grade, had an ADM of 68. This year, it’s up to 81.
"While that may not be significant for a large corporation, it is enough growth to make a significant difference at a small school," Hunt said. "In fact, our kindergarten and pre-K classes doubled in size compared to last school year at this time. We are optimistic that our elementary will continue to see growth."
She gave a couple of reasons for the elementary’s increased enrollment.
"First, our STEM initiative at the elementary school has kind of set us apart from other traditional school models," she said. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering and math.
"Our STEM curriculum exposes students to real-world problems and allows them to attain skills in critical thinking, collaboration and perseverance," Hunt said. "STEM teaches our kids to be gritty, to never give up and to work on a problem until they find a solution. Most importantly, STEM engages our students in their learning, and the students love it."
The other reason? She said parents are beginning to realize that bigger isn’t always better.
"With a student-to-teacher ratio of 10:1 and the biggest class size being about 20 students, our students receive more one-on-one attention and individualized instruction," Hunt said.
Medora also has made staffing changes in both schools. An additional English/language arts teacher was hired for the middle school. In the past, the same teacher taught math and English/language arts to middle school students.
In the elementary, Hunt said there were some restructuring and staffing changes to better meet the needs of students.
"Fifth and sixth grade used to be combined. This year, they were split into two classes," she said. "We also hired three additional classroom aides, including a special needs aide. Each one of our elementary classrooms has an instructional aide."
Hunt said she’s glad to report an "amazing" start to the school year.
"Our staff loved seeing all the new faces as well as students from the previous year," she said. "Once again, our staff is focused on providing each student with the instruction, skills and knowledge to be successful. We will continue to focus on integrating STEM into the curriculum, and the elementary will apply for STEM certification this spring."
Business Manager Jade Peters said he isn’t too concerned about Brownstown losing 13 students from September 2018 to now.
If that number gets around 20 to 30, though, he said it would be cause for concern.
"Three years ago in 2016 when I first got this job, we lost 87, so that was a $387,000 hit," Peters said, as a school corporation’s state funding is based on ADM.
"That was a huge concern, ‘Hey, we’re not going to be replacing people if they retire,’" he said. "That’s what we had done at the middle school level. The elementary teacher was already gone at that point in fourth and fifth grade, but we weren’t able to get those teachers back because the funding wasn’t there."
One reason for the decrease is the high school graduated 130 seniors in May, but this year’s kindergarten class is only 108 students.
"That’s the biggest chunk," Peters said. "The grades that we see coming in now are smaller than the grades graduating. That’s going to happen one more year. If we’re going to graduate 147 this year, we’ll have 108 coming in, so we’re projecting 20-some loss next year."
If there’s more of a decrease by the September ADM count, school officials may need to look at possible cuts in the education fund.
"And that’s where the hard part comes," Peters said.
One positive this school year was having to add a fourth-grade teacher. Typically, fourth and fifth grades have four teachers apiece, while kindergarten through third grade each have five.
With 118 kids in fourth grade this year and only 24 of them in the gifted and talented class, that left 30-plus students in the other three classes. Officials shared that concern with the board of trustees, which approved hiring a fifth fourth-grade teacher during a meeting earlier this month.
"We were at the point where we just needed to add a teacher back," Peters said.
So what can be done to increase the corporation’s enrollment? One thing already implemented is giving the schools more of a presence on social media, which was a push by Superintendent Tim Taylor.
"You want to get all of the positive things out there that we’re doing here at Brownstown, so that’s what he’s really pushing for on that is getting the word out about all of the great things that go on here," Peters said. "Offer good programs and have great teachers, that’s what we feel like we have here."
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Average daily membership counts
School corporation;September 2018;February 2019;Now