Volunteers serving food at the Buford Harvest Festival

For the third straight year, school enrollment in Charlottesville and Albemarle is on the rise.

Seven of Charlottesville’s nine schools grew, bringing the division total to 4,085 students—the first time the division’s enrollment has broken the 4,000-student threshold in the last six years.

Charlottesville’s rebound is also reversing the downward trend experienced from 2003-4 to 2010-11, when the division lost 475 students.

Ed Gillaspie, the Schools’ finance director, said that while no single issue caused the decline in those years, the national trend of families moving into the suburbs affected local enrollment.

In the last year, Burnley-Moran, Clark, and Greenbrier elementary schools gained the most students at 31, 38, and 27, respectively. Buford Middle School’s numbers dropped by 15, and Venable Elementary School’s by 24.

“We had an unusually large group in kindergarten last year, which caused us to open a fourth class,” Venable Principal Erin Kershner said. “But during the school year and over the summer, we also had an unusually high number of families move away.” 

Division-wide, Charlottesville’s kindergarten enrollment jumped to 447, which represents a 35 percent jump in the last five years.

Gillaspie said new residential development and innovative school programs have led to the increase.

“In the context of these, the economy may also have had an effect by pulling in parents who may have otherwise moved in the direction of a private school placement,” Gillaspie said.

Thirteen of Albemarle’s 26 schools also saw enrollment increases, and Albemarle spokesman Phil Giaramita said that while the County has seen steady growth near Crozet, this year’s growth occurred mainly in northern Albemarle.

Division-wide, enrollment jumped up 73 students to 13,141, which marks an increase of 558 over the last 5 years.

Greer, Baker-Butler, and Woodbrook elementary schools all exceeded projections, posting increases of 77, 40, and 51 students, respectively.

Jack Jouett Middle School grew by 38, while Walton Middle School dipped by 46 students. Albemarle High School’s enrollment increased by 78, bringing the total number of students to 1,869—above its capacity of 1,812.

Koleszar pointed out that year-to-year enrollment numbers can change rapidly, noting that Brownsville Elementary School declined by 31, despite its previous growth. In spite of the population increase, Koleszar said the county’s schools can still absorb additional students, and that the board will remain open to redistricting in the future.

“You can’t get too excited about one years’ numbers,” Koleszar said. “You have to look at what the long-term growth trends are, and you have to know that they can change.”

There are no imminent plans to build a new northern high school, and in July, the Long Range Planning Advisory Committee recommended instead building additions at Western Albemarle and Monticello High Schools.

“Our philosophy has been over the last 10 years or so, where possible, that we’re better off adding seats to existing schools, because it’s a more efficient use of our dollars,” Koleszar said.

“If all of our urban ring elementary schools get up to that 650-700 number than we would maybe have to do something,” Koleszar said.

Read the full story here: http://www.cvilletomorrow.org/news/article/16325-enrollment-shows-growth/

Albemarle survey to close October 30

Albemarle parents, staff, and community members are running out of time to weigh-in on next year’s school calendar. The Calendar Priorities Survey, which division staff will use when creating the 2014-15 school calendar, and which can be taken online, will close on Wednesday, October 30, at 11:59pm.

Albemarle’s Calendar Committee “works to produce a school calendar that supports our goals to engage students, improve opportunities and achievement, and get the most productivity out of our resources,” according to the division’s website.

On November 20, staff will post the calendar’s first draft to the division’s website for community feedback. A second draft will be posted on December 13, and the School Board will discuss the calendar on January 9.

Visit http://www.k12albemarle.org for more information.