District 51 evaluates upcoming school enrollment

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GRAND JUNCTION, Colo. (KKCO) -- District 51 officials met today to discuss the budget and talk about enrollment numbers for the upcoming school year.

Budget cuts over the past years have had many concerned about the student teacher ratio in the classroom. District 51 officials say they constantly look at enrollment numbers very carefully in order to make sure class sizes are balanced and district teachers are utilized properly.

Sally Christensen is a mother of five, with two children attending District 51 schools and one special needs child. She's concerned about the school district's budget cuts and the amount of teachers available to students.

“My one son going into middle school, it's going to be a challenge when he gets to high school because there are so many students in there," said Christensen.

Every quarter officials at the school board meet to evaluate enrollment numbers, and today's meeting focused on the upcoming school year.

Melissa Callahan-Devita, Chief Operations Officer of District 51 says they hire a demographer and look at current enrollment to help when it comes to determining enrollment numbers.

“He looks at historical birth rates, he looks at trends so we hire him to do forecasting for us and that's his expertise. We also then look at current enrollment in what we have," said Callahan-Devita.

Bill Larsen, the Chief Academic Officer, says the school district is doing something different this year.

“We've already gone through the School of Choice window which was back in February to March so School of Choice is closed at this point so the way that the school can move outside of their attendance area is to come in through a transfer policy," said Larsen.

School of Choice is a program that allows parents to put in a request for their student to attend a school outside of their district. The program ended early in order for those students to be accounted for in their respective schools.

Early projections are showing the Grand Junction High School freshman class may be large.

“Class normally comes in at 450 that class size might be as big as 480. I'm working with the principal and the administration of that school to make sure we are able to adjust as needed," said Larsen.

However, District 51 is hopeful for the upcoming school year and says for the first time in four years they haven't had a reduction in resources.

“I think we're getting a better match of resources to needs and again that's ultimately our responsibility to make sure that every student has the optimum learning environment and that includes their class size," said Larsen.

District 51 officials say the enrollment numbers are a good estimate, but it's hard to know exact numbers until they get a ‘warm body count’ or count the kids in the class once school is in session.

They say if they discover class sizes are too large once school resumes they will try and adjust accordingly.

Officials also say there won't be any boundary changes for schools.

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