Leader Blues

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

TOP STORY >>Cabot, Beebe see enrollment go up in school districts

Area school enrollment figures are in: Cabot and Beebe school districts increasing enrollment, while the Pulaski County Special School District and Lonoke School District experinces slight declines. These fall figures are reported nationally, but the enrollment figures upon which state minimum foundation aid—the money that follows each student—are taken about three-quarters of the way through the school year, according to Julie Thompson, spokesman for the state Department of Education
Cabot’s enrollment increased by at least 450 students, while Beebe saw an increase of almost 200 students. PCSSD lost 187 students—about 1 percent—and Lonoke enrollment decreased by 16 students.


Enrollment in the Pulaski County Special School District is down to 17,756 from 17,943 a year ago, according to figures provided by the district and the state Department of Education. In the long run, the district’s enrollment is pretty stable, according to Brenda Bowles, director of equity, and the decline may be largely due to the exodus of many of the students who fled Hurricane Katrina last year and attended schools here.

Enrollment is down at all three Sylvan Hills schools and Bowles said many of those students are transferring to North Little Rock schools. White students from both the high school and the middle school in Jacksonville also have transferred to North Little Rock, Bowles said. In addition, about 1,000 area students are being home schooled and yet others are attending charter schools in Maumelle and downtown Little Rock. For the last four or five years, some growth was from majority to minority transfers from Little Rock, she said. “We’re now losing instead of gaining. Some schools are full or at capacity.”

Students who would have attended Homer Atkins were reassigned to Murrell Taylor Elementary, Jacksonville Elementary and Harris Elementary, with some of them transferring to Dupree Elementary, Bowles said. Homer Adkins last year had 221 students as an elementary school. This year, reconfigured as a pre-kindergarten-only school, it has 112 students.
The decline at Arnold Drive Elementary School is at least partially attributable to families moving off Little Rock Air Force Base while on-base housing is privatized and razed or rehabilitated. Here’s how enrollment breaks down for local schools:


Arnold Drive Elementary, 216 students, a decrease of 39 students.
Bayou Meto Elementary, 394 students, down from 410.
Cato Elementary, 329 students, a decrease of nine.
Harris Elementary, 271 students, an increase of 37.
Jacksonville Elementary, 552, an increase of 16 students.
Murrell Taylor Elementary, 430 students, up 73 students.
Pinewood Elementary, 404 students, down 25.
Scott Elementary, 130 students, an increase of 15 from last year.
Sherwood Elementary, 400 students, up eight from last year.
Sylvan Hills Elementary, 359 students, down 47 students.
Tolleson Elementary, 297 students, an increase of 25.
Warren Dupree Elementary, 322 students, an increase of 45 students.

Middle School

Northwood Middle School, 654 students, down 14.
Sylvan Hills Middle School, 653 students, a decrease of 60 students.
Jacksonville Middle School—last year, both the boys and the girls middle schools were combined, with a total of 892 students.
This year, they are considered separate schools, with an enrollment of 426 on the boys campus and 440 students on the girls campus. Combined, they have 26 fewer students than last year.

High School

Jacksonville High School, 1,114 students, down 15 students.
Sylvan Hills High School, 955 students, down from 972.
North Pulaski High School, 913 students, an increase of 16.


The Cabot Public School District showed an enrollment of 9,006 students as of the Sept. 21 school board meeting, reported by superintendent Frank Holmanan increase in enrollment by 518 students from last year. Monday’s current figures from each campus however show enrollment at 8,944 students, that’s 9,171 students when including the 227 pre-kindergarteners, an increase of 456 students from last year’s 8,488.

“We are shocked as well as pleased with the increase we’ve had since last year,” said Pam Carter, data systems manager for the district . Carter said classrooms have been made in every available room in the schools to allow for the increased student population. Magness Creek Elementary added five to seven classes for this school year and Ward Central Elementary is still using the classes they added last year.

Enrollment at Cabot’s 13 campuses for the 2006-2007 are:
Cabot High School, 1,727 students, an increase of 48.
Cabot Junior High South, 983 students, an increase of 43.
Cabot Junior High North, 1,071 students, up 66 from last year.
Cabot Middle School, 676 students, an increase of 62.
Cabot Middle School North’s enrollment remained steady at 730.
Academic Center for Excellence (ACE), Cabot’s conversion charter school, 119, down 35 from last year.
Ward Central Elementary has 472 kindergarten through fourth graders, down nine from last year. Ward Central also has 137 pre-kindergarten students enrolled.
Central Elementary enrollment went up to 495, a gain of 37 students.
Eastside Elementary, 550, a drop of 28 students.
Magness Creek Elementary enrollment boomed to 605 students this year, a gain of 106.
Northside Elementary, 475 students, a gain of 20 students. The school also has 20 pre-kindergarten students.
Southside Elementary, gained 43 students for a total of 550.
Westside Elementary saw a similar increase, with430 students, 42 more than last year and 70 pre-kindergarten students.
According to the ADE, for the 2005-2006 school year, Cabot Public Schools had a total enrollment of 8,488, which does not include the pre-kindergarten programs. David Hipp, president of the Cabot Board of Education, credited the city of Cabot’s housing growth spurt the last several years as the reason for the increase of students. “People are moving to Cabot. I feel that one of the things drawing people here is the good school system,” Hipp said. “We have anywhere from a 300-500 student increase every year; if you look at the housing areas started here in Cabot, that doesn’t take long.”


The Beebe School District has 3,093 students in grades K-12, with 30 in the pre-kindergarten classrooms.
That’s an increase in enrollment of 194 students since last school year, when Beebe had a total enrollment of 2,899 for the 2005-2006 year, not including the pre-kindergarten program. Superintendent Belinda Shook said the district saw a larger increase than normal this year because of a larger kindergarten class.
According to Shook the district usually increases anywhere from 70 to 90 students per year.
Beebe School District’s current enrollment figures per campus are:
Beebe Primary Elementary, 780 students, a gain of 93.
Beebe Intermediate, 460 students, a gain of38.
Beebe Middle, 466, a gain of 13 students
Beebe Junior High School, 467, a loss of seven students compared to last year.
Beebe High School has 911, an increase of 48 students.
Shook believes Beebe’s proximity to Little Rock and Searcy is one reason for the district’s increased enrollment.
“Beebe is growing as a community; we have a good school system and a good community,” Shook said. “People want to move here. They like that we are not a huge district, but at the same time, that we aren’t a small district either.”
Shook also cites the variety of programs offered both in the curriculum and in extra-curricular activities as a reason for higher enrollment figures, including the district’s before- and after-school programs, which she sees as a “big plus for us.”
Sheena Williamson, principal at Beebe High School, said one reason for current enrollment figures is because all the campuses are in one location. “Parents can drop off all their children at one location, not numerous ones throughout town,” Williamson said. “Older siblings are also able to look out for younger ones with the campuses all together.”


The Lonoke School District lost 16 students this year in grades K-12, with a total enrollment of 1,839. That’s down from 1,855 a year ago. “I’d characterize this as normal ebb and flow of enrollment,” said John Tackett, assistant superintendent.
“We’ve seen some growth in the long run. We have increased enrollment over the last five years. What we’d like to see is to have it start at the primary level and move through the system.” He said the new middle school, slated to open after Christmas break, could encourage some students to stay in school or attract and keep new students.

“Facilities are important, but secondary to the programs inside the facilities,” Tackett said Primary school enrollment is up 13 students to 439, according to figures provided by the district. Elementary school enrollment dipped from 436 last year to 417 this year; middle school is up eight students to 416 and High School dropped 18 students to 567 students. These are not the totals used to figure state aid to the Lonoke School District—those are determined after the third nine-week period, but if they hold, the district’s state foundation aid revenues will be down about $90,000, based on state aid of $5,662 per student.

Earlier this year, Lonoke Superintendent Sharron Havens had told the board that the district could lose as much as $300,000 in state foundation aid this year if enrollment the first week was any indication, so that’s actually good news.
Lonoke also has 97 pre-K students.