The East Baton Rouge Parish school system has about 400 more students enrolled now than it had a year ago.
On Friday, 43,541 students were enrolled in the parish school system, which ranks second in size only to Jefferson Parish.
Enrollment has grown by 1,100 students since Aug. 10, the first day of school, but decreased in recent days because schools have dropped no-show students from rolls.
Last year in late August, 43,151 students were enrolled. The official Oct. 1 count last year was 43,156, just five students more.
Slightly more than half of parish schools have added students this year compared with last year.
McKinley High School added 195 students, the most of the school system’s 84 schools. McKinley enrolled 1,376 students, making it the largest school in the system, two more students than Woodlawn High.
Middle schools, however, are suffering the most crowding issues. Park Forest, Southeast, Westdale and Woodlawn middle schools have between 900 and 1,050 students, putting them all at or, in some cases, over their capacity. Smaller middle schools such as Glasgow and Mayfair middle schools also are full. Only Broadmoor and Capitol middle schools have extra space.
Millie Williams, personnel director for the system, said Friday that her office added 23 teaching positions this week to help ease crowding — 18 of those were in middle schools.
Mayfair and Southeast middle schools added the most, five teachers each, she said.
Williams said she has had regular meetings with assistant superintendents to prepare them for new hiring and teacher shifting. She said more shifting may occur after Labor Day, once the school system knows how many students have opted to transfer from lower-performing to higher-performing schools — a requirement of the 2002 No Child Left Behind Law.
Superintendent John Dilworth said schools are handling the extra students without having to add temporary classrooms or reassigning students to less crowded schools. A couple of schools, Woodlawn Middle specifically, are floating teachers, meaning the teachers are moving from classroom to classroom throughout the day, Dilworth said.
“We’re going to make it,” he said. “It’s not ideal.”
Parish public schools aren’t the only school districts experiencing growth.
Zachary ended this week with 5,273 students at its seven schools. That’s 169 students more than the district’s official Oct. 1, 2010, enrollment.
“We actually had a little larger growth than we anticipated,” Superintendent Warren Drake said. “A lot of our growth is from people moving in from out of state.”
Zachary High has 1,441 students, making it the biggest public school in the parish. That’s 86 students more than the school’s Oct. 1 enrollment a year ago.
Drake said the school system would in past years have hired seven more teachers to handle the extra students. He doesn’t expect the numbers to change much between now and Oct. 1.
“I think we’re pretty much steady. We’re not going to add or drop a lot,” he said.
The Central Community school system has also grown slightly, to 4,082 students, according to the Aug. 22 count. Last year, its official Oct. 1 count was 4,034 students. Three schools have grown compared to a year ago, while two schools have declined.
The new enrollment growth among Baton Rouge middle schools, especially at Mayfair schools, has raised speculation among East Baton Rouge Parish School Board members as to whether growth is coming at the expense of the middle schools in the state-run Recovery School District.
RSD oversees six charter schools in Baton Rouge and now directly runs Capitol High School, formerly two schools combined into one. All of these schools were formerly operated by the parish school system, but were taken over in 2008 for 2009 for chronic low academic performance.
Four of them are middle schools. All of the schools have lost students compared to their pre-takeover enrollments and none have improved much academically; two declined.
For more than a week, The Advocate, without success, has requested detailed, current enrollment information from the state Department of Education about RSD schools in the Baton Rouge area.
Spokeswoman Ileana Ledet said the Recovery School District’s Region 2 office, which oversees these schools, doesn’t routinely gather enrollment data from the schools, but the office agreed to update its information.
The state employee who was supposed to do that Friday, however, called in sick, Ledet said. Ledet said she hopes to get the enrollment information by early next week.
Dilworth said students move around a lot in Baton Rouge and he’s not sure to what extent the RSD is losing students and the parish school system is gaining them.
“I haven’t gone into our system to see where they are all coming from,” he said.