Lindbergh’s 5,851 enrollment highest since ’81-’82 school year, board told

Lindbergh now experiencing a sharp spike in enrollment

By MIKE ANTHONY

Lindbergh Schools’ current enrollment of nearly 6,000 students is the most since the 1981-1982 school year, Assistant Superintendent of Personnel Services Rick Francis recently told the Board of Education.

The district’s total enrollment increased by 145 students to 5,851 this September from 5,706 in September 2010, according to Francis, who said, “… So we’re inching ever closer to that 6,000 mark.”

The district’s current enrollment of 5,851 is the most since the 1981-1982 school year when 6,111 students were enrolled in Lindbergh schools.

“… Of course, at that time we were declining (in enrollment) and this time, we’re headed in the other direction,” Francis said, adding that he had reviewed enrollment numbers dating back to 1970 when current Board of Education President Vic Lenz was employed by the district.

“… This increase of 145 students is the third-highest one-year enrollment increase only topped by 1996 and 2004 where there were increases of 148 students in those two years,” Francis said at the Oct. 11 Board of Education meeting. “And it’s probably coincidental, but when you think about ’96, 2004, 2012, all three of these highest one-year enrollments are eight years apart. History does repeat itself, I guess.”

From September 2010 to this September, the district’s elementary residential enrollment increased to 2,426 from 2,325, which Francis termed “aggressive growth.”

“Our elementary residential enrollment increase was 101 students, which is aggressive growth,” he said. “We find that we have 46 more kindergarten students this year — 396 — compared to our last four-year average of 350. So 46 more kindergarten students were on our doorstep in August.”

In a memorandum to Superintendent Jim Simpson, Francis wrote that elementary residential enrollment has increased by 251 students over the past five years — an average of 50 students per year.

“With no VICC (Voluntary Interdistrict Choice Corp.) students in the elementary buildings to offset the residential increases, this equates to two to three classrooms per year,” Francis wrote.

Over the past five years, middle school residential enrollment has increased by 101 students, an average of 20 students per year, while high school enrollment has increased by 58 students over the past five years, an average of 12 students per year, according to Francis.

Enrollment at all five of the districts’ elementary schools totals 2,508 for the current school year.

Total enrollment at Sperreng Middle School is 673 while enrollment at Truman Middle School is 666.

Total enrollment at Lindbergh High School for the 2011-2012 school year is 2,004 students.

Comparing what he projected last March to actual enrollment, Francis told board members, “… If this was a dart board that we were throwing at, then the elementary projection, I missed the whole board because it was 85 students away from the target. Of course, 46 of those I just mentioned to you were kindergarten students that didn’t show up when we look at our live birth data that we get from CSD (Cooperating School Districts).

“We had 46 kids that had to have moved in here from — they weren’t born here, but at age whatever, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, moved in here and so that tells me we’ve got to go back and look at our housing impact as we look at our projected enrollments,” he added.

“At the middle school, we projected 1,286 residential and it was 1266, so at least I hit the board with that projection,” Francis said. “And at the high school, well it was just plain dumb luck. We projected 1,855 residential students and there were 1,855 students …”

In his memo, Francis wrote, “In the future, our elementary residential must be closely monitored. In 2010, there were 347 kindergarten students. This year, we’ve begun with 396 kindergarten students — an increase of 46 over our past four years’ average of 350.”

Francis told the board, “So we continue to grow. As we look at the 10-year average, it’s been over 50 students per year and so now we look at this 145 and we have to ask ourselves: Is this an anomaly or a new trend that we have to closely watch?”

Simpson told the Call that district officials are “a little bit apprehensive” about the increase in enrollment.

“… We actually have aggressive enrollment. We are a little bit apprehensive about how fast we are growing. I mean we have over a hundred elementary kids appear that you had no indication were coming,” he said. “If you have multiple years back to back of that, you pretty soon are going to really run out of classroom space …”

The district encompasses more than 17,000 homes, Simpson said.

“… We know to the detail a lot of demographics about our district as we try to project enrollment. That’s how you project enrollment. You have to know a lot of things about age groups, house ownership, number of homes, turnover of homes. Our biggest demographic is people over 65. That’s our majority group and even over 75 (years old) is a big group for us …”

One factor is driving the enrollment growth, he said.

“… It’s hundreds and hundreds of homes in the World War II generation that are quickly coming now on the market in predictable numbers, based on that generation’s passing,” Simpson said. “And those homes are great homes. They’re in a price range for families that are looking for outstanding education and neighborhoods in which to raise their children that are low crime, nice, quiet neighborhoods with big trees and nice yards … That trend is going to continue and work its way through the baby boomers also …”

The superintendent said, “Here’s a statement that’s made to me frequently now by people who have lived in this community most of their lives. They say: My neighborhood used to have no children in it. Now I see children frequently …”

Lindbergh’s enrollment peaked at roughly 12,000 students, but began declining in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

“But that same mechanism that caused that decline is now reversing itself and what we’re pleased with and proud of is those communities, those houses, those subdivisions are in excellent shape,” Simpson said. “We did not decline nor blight. These people have been great stewards of their homes — maintained the homes, maintained the yards.

“You can’t even find a scrap of trash anywhere. Every yard in every neighborhood is mowed. They take such pride in their homes and they’ve kept their homes up so they’re very attractive to families with children …

“And the prices have gotten better, not worse. It’s a buyers’ market and a lot of these outstanding homes are in the $250,000 range and that is a great price range now for the quality of that, plus you get the Lindbergh education thrown on top of that — No. 1 in the state two years in a row …”