Manatee school district student enrollment increases

nalund@bradenton.comOctober 16, 2010 

MANATEE — Enrollment in Manatee County schools is up by 1,110 students, thanks to more people moving into the area and more migrant and private school students enrolling, according to school officials.

There are 43,400 students in the district, up from last year’s population of 42,300, according to numbers released Friday.

This is the most growth the district has seen since 2002-03 when the district grew by 2,337 students from the previous school year, officials said. The smallest growth took place in 2008-09, when the district grew by only 22 children, and last year when the student count was nearly the same as the prior school year.

“It’s a good thing,” said Danny Lundeen, district supervisor of demographics and projections. “We’re having a real healthy mix of things happening. People are moving in from out-of-state and our migrant population is up by several hundred students from last year.”

This year the district has 1,895 migrant students compared to last year’s late September count of 1,450.

Another reason for growth includes Palmetto Christian School converting into a district charter school this year.

“Plus Bradenton Prep has had some issues, and some students transferred in from that,” Lundeen said.

The school, now called The Prep, is experiencing a myriad of financial issues, including losing its west Bradenton campus to foreclosure in July.

An exact number on transfers in from private schools was not available Friday, but Lundeen estimated it to be a couple hundred.

State-mandated counts are taken in October and February of each school year. They determine how much the state gives the district for each student. This year the district expects to get about $6,815 per student, said Jim Drake, district assistant superintendent of finances. The money goes toward items such as instructional materials and teacher salaries.

The district this year is working with a $644.2 million budget. When district leaders prepared it, they estimated they would see an additional 375 students compared to last year.

That means the district should get about $5 million more in state funding for the additional 725 students.

But Drake said that money is already accounted for and will go toward paying for items including the 85 extra teachers hired this year to meet class size requirements.

This month is the deadline for school districts to meet class-size limits or face hefty fines for each child over in a classroom — about $3,000 a student. It’s the final stage of the 2002 voter-approved plan to reduce teacher-student ratios and improve student achievement in Florida. The class-size limits stipulate that no more than 18 students be assigned to classrooms in core classes in grades K-3; 22 students in grades 4-8; and 25 in high school.

More students in the district mean it will be tougher for officials to maintain those numbers. District officials as of September had been bracing for about $500,000 in penalties because they could not afford to hire more teachers. In April, lawmakers agreed to allow voters Nov. 2 to decide whether to ease class size limits.

In the end, the potential $5 million in state funding is dependent on overall state enrollment.

This year the state allotted $18.1 billion for 2.64 million children.

But if the state ends up with an additional 10,000 students, it recalculates and the per-student funding allowance goes down, Drake said.

“We’ll have to wait until the final state count is determined and then Manatee will see what it gets,” he said.

That number could be announced as early as late November.

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