All About the Children

Enrollment in local schools booms

Students line up in hallways at Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary School on the first day of school.
Students line up in hallways at Rogers Garden-Bullock Elementary School on the first day of school.

Manatee classrooms have 650 more students this year compared to the 10-day count of students attending Manatee County schools last year, and 383 more than district and state officials planned to see.

Following recent trends, Manatee officials had expected to see a total of 47,900 students in schools this year. The 10-day count taken Tuesday shows there are 48,283 students.

School districts in Florida count students on the fifth day of school and on the 10th day of school. After the 10th day of school, officials will start to move or hire teachers to areas where the most students are showing up to make sure the classrooms stay in compliance with the state’s class-size amendment.

“We’re making sure we’re in compliance, and we’re making the adjustments now,” said Cynthia Saunders, deputy superintendent of instruction.

At the elementary level, at least seven teachers will move to schools with growth, but Saunders expects more new teachers at the elementary level than at the middle and high school levels.

What’s more common at the middle and high school level, is to agree to pay an existing teacher more money to teach an additional section of a certain subject than to hire a new teacher. That way, it’s easier to make sure teachers who are qualified and certified to teach certain subjects reach those students who need those subject areas.

“You have a better chance of getting a highly qualified teacher that way,” Saunders said.

Because of that, Saunders didn’t have an exact count of how many new teachers would need to be hired overall.

An additional 68 students compared to last year’s 10-day count at Lakewood Ranch High School helped Lakewood Ranch oust Manatee High School as the largest high school in the county right now. According to the 10-day count, Lakewood Ranch has 2,382 students compared to 2,318 at Manatee High.

Palmetto High gained 106 students comparing 10-day counts and has 2,224 students enrolled right now. Braden River showed the largest growth in the 10-day period, with 141 more students compared to this time last year, and showed 2,210 students. Southeast and Bayshore remain the smallest high schools with 1,731 and 1,500 enrolled at those schools, respectively.

Elementary schools that saw the most growth included schools that absorbed students from the closing of Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School. Although Rogers Garden took in the majority of those students, adding 302 when looking at the 10-day numbers, Oneco added 74 students, Samoset added 72, Daughtrey added 64 and Ballard added 61.

“The more students the better,” school board Chairwoman Karen Carpenter said, adding that she’s confident the district staff will take good care of the children in their care. “We will help these students learn.”

Meghin Delaney: 941-745-7081, @MeghinDelaney