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The Charlottesville school division’s enrollment is continuing to grow, according to a report shared with the city School Board on Thursday.
As of Wednesday, 4,353 students were enrolled in Charlottesville City Schools, 91 more than last year. The division has added 268 students since 2013.
Most of the growth was concentrated at Walker Upper Elementary, Buford Middle and Charlottesville High schools. Those schools gained a total of 106 students this year.
Walker experienced the most growth among city schools, with 49 additional students. A similar increase is expected for the 2019-20 school year.
“This is the wave that we have been expecting at Walker,” said Assistant Superintendent Kim Powell.
Walker had 661 students enrolled as of Wednesday. A school capacity study by VMDO Architects in 2017 measured Walker’s maximum capacity at 675 students.
Enrollment across the division’s six elementary schools decreased by 15 students this year. Greenbrier was the only elementary school with significant growth, adding 13 students.
Greenbrier enrolls 52 non-resident students, the highest total among the city’s elementary schools. Venable and Burnley-Moran are next, with 29 and 20, respectively.
Families living outside of Charlottesville can pay annual tuition to send their children to city schools. Tuition is waived for children of school and city government employees.
This year, 306 non-resident students are enrolled in the division, including 100 children of school and city employees.
“These numbers really reflect the value of these schools to our employees,” said Gary Blair, the division’s interim director of human resources.
Burnley-Moran has the largest average class sizes among elementary schools this year. Four of five grades at the school have average class sizes of more than 20 students, including 24 students per kindergarten class.
“Burnley-Moran seems really stressed in terms of its maximum class sizes,” said School Board member Jennifer McKeever. “I’m just really concerned about those classrooms [in kindergarten through second grade].”
Board member Amy Laufer said she would like to evaluate the impact of non-resident enrollment at Burnley-Moran.
“It does seem to me that [class size at] Burnley-Moran comes up often,” Laufer said.
Board Chairman Juandiego Wade said the division has added more than 600 students since he joined the board in 2007.
“We have a wonderful thing going on here,” Wade said.
Blair did not recommend hiring more teachers to accommodate the growth. He said the division’s enrollment projections for this year were accurate.
“We didn’t have teachers moving from building to building in the elementary schools,” he said. “That’s not magic, that’s hard work.”
A separate report on school staffing showed that Charlottesville retained 85 percent of its teachers for the 2018-19 academic year, lower than last year’s rate of 89 percent. The teacher retention rate exceeded 86 percent in each of the five school years preceding the current year.
“With a seasoned staff, you keep having retirees,” Blair said. “It’s hard to replace that experience, but we do.”
Teachers hired for the 2018-19 academic year had six years of experience on average. The average for teachers hired between 2014 and 2017 was about 13 years.
“We hired several teachers with more than 20 years of experience, but also many who are new to the profession,” Blair said. “It’s a nice blend of veterans and new people. Every staff should have a balance.”
Blair said recent college graduates tend to bring new ideas and teaching methods to their schools. “I think it invigorates everybody,” he said.
About 14 percent of teachers hired this year are African-American, the highest rate in over five years.
According to the report, Charlottesville has implemented several practices to increase minority representation in teacher recruitment, such as forming ethnically diverse teams of staff to interview candidates at each school and represent the division at recruiting events.