In 25 years with Mankato Area Public Schools, Jerry Kolander has never seen a kindergarten class so large.
The district projected a kindergarten enrollment of 598 students for the 2012-13 school year. But final enrollment figures released Monday showed an actual class size of 697 students, 17 percent more than anticipated and 64 more students than last year.
“It seems like a lot of kids,” said School Board member Sara Hansen. “That’s like three classrooms of children.”
Kolander, director of business affairs, recently pointed to the high Mankato birth rate in 2006 before the recession as one reason for the increase. Supt. Sheri Allen said Mankato’s economy is the biggest influence.
“This mirrors our economic growth as a community,” she said.
District-wide, there are 7,594 students enrolled, which is 205 more than in 2011-12. Kolander told the School Board that, after calculating the per-pupil state aid formula, 205 additional students translates to about $1 million in additional state aid for the district.
Compared to the 2003-04 enrollment of 6,899 students, the district has grown 10 percent in 10 years. Early projections show an enrollment of 8,351 students in 2017-18, which would be an additional 10 percent growth in five years.
“Any growth is positive in the community,” Allen said. “We’ve got to be able to respond to that, and we have been.”
Among elementary schools, Rosa Parks saw the biggest jump, with 82 more students enrolled than in 2011-12, which Allen said was by design. She said boundary changes for 2013-14 caused the jump.
Washington students in the Minnesota State University area (east of Val Imm Drive, Warren Street and Highland Avenue access) will move to Rosa Parks next year. This school year students could choose to make the transfer early. Allen said many families chose to make the move early, which is reflected in the fact that 41 fewer students are enrolled at Washington.
Another boundary change next year will affect Hoover and Monroe. Hoover Elementary students in the Eagle Ridge/Coventry area (east of Lor Ray and north of the Green Acres subdivision to 512th Street) will move to Monroe Elementary. Monroe saw an increase of 25 students this year. Hoover, which would have made more significant gains without the voluntary transfer this year, had an increase of just two students, Allen said.
Franklin Elementary also saw a jump of 64 students this year, for a total of 726 students at the K-6 school.
Allen said enrollment has increased district-wide, but there’s a 2-to-1 growth ratio on the East side of Mankato. She said the district has begun to study the need for an additional middle school building on the East side of town, but it’s too early in the process for a projected timeline. The district is also looking at adding a sixth-grade wing onto Dakota Meadows Middle School in North Mankato.
The largest class sizes in the district are mostly at the sixth-grade level. Franklin has nine sixth-grade classes with at least 31 students and as many as 33 students.
Figures are similar at Garfield, with five sections of 32 students and three sections of 31 students.
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