Isle of Wight enrollment up a bit

Published 6:27 pm Tuesday, October 9, 2018

School population of interest with capital plan in the works

By Diana McFarland and Frederic Lee 

Staff writers

Isle of Wight County saw an increase of 67 public school students in grades K-12 as the school year got underway, up about 1 percent from last fall. 

Total enrollment currently stands at 5,407 for K-12 — up 39 students from five years ago, according to historic data from the Virginia Department of Education. 

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The number of school children in Isle of Wight has been a topic of discussion over the past year as the School Board recently approved a nearly $78 million capital improvement plan — part of which is designed to accommodate current and future growth, particularly in the northern end of the county. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

At the same time, this year’s enrollment increases and decreases came in predictable, as well as surprising, places. 

One surprise was that Georgie D. Tyler Middle School in Windsor saw the biggest bump in student enrollment this fall, with 33 students, followed by an increase at Carrollton Elementary School of 29 more students. 

Schools spokesperson Lynn Briggs said that some Windsor Elementary School students who would usually move back to the Smithfield zone when getting ready to go to middle school may have instead decided to remain in the Windsor zone, accounting for the increase at Georgie Tyler this year. 

Another explanation is that the incoming sixth grade class is larger than the outgoing eighth grade class, which would result in an overall increase in enrollment at Georgie Tyler, said Briggs. 

That increase had been expected, said Briggs, adding that there are always fluctuations in class sizes each year. 

The student increase at Carrollton was more predictable, given the number of new homes and apartments going up at Benn’s Grant and Eagle Harbor, as children living in those developments attend Carrollton Elementary. 

However, school officials cannot pinpoint exactly where those additional students at Carrollton came from, said Briggs.

Windsor Elementary School experienced the third largest increase of 20 new students. 

Showing a decrease this year was Smithfield High School, losing 17, followed by Carrsville Elementary with 14 and Smithfield Middle with a loss of eight students. 

Changes at Hardy and Westside elementary school were made this year to alleviate the need for trailers. Beginning this fall, rising fourth graders at Hardy stayed at Hardy rather than moving onto Westside, adding another 76 to the total enrollment at Hardy. Because of the change, Westside saw a decrease in 54 students, for a total of 750. 

The decrease is not equal to the fourth graders at Hardy, said Briggs. 

Without the change to the fourth grade, Westside would have seen an increase of about 50 students, said School Board Chairperson Vicky Hulick.

Westside’s capacity is 768 students and the school was over capacity in January of this year when the school had 811 students, according to school data.

Leaving fourth graders at Hardy gave Westside some breathing room, as it is now 18 students below capacity, according to school data. Westside serves grades four through six and under the new arrangement, the new fourth graders only come from Carrollton. 

Hulick said the boom year is expected during the 2019-20 school year and that the Carrollton area is growing as predicted. 

School officials have estimated that the county will see an overall increase of 306 students over the next four years, and by nearly 900 over the next 10-15, mostly in the northern end of Isle of Wight County, where multiple housing developments are either currently underway or have been approved in the past. 

Because of those projections, the Isle of Wight County School Board approved a nearly $78 million phased capital improvement plan to add on to Hardy, as well as build a new elementary school in the northern part of Isle of Wight County in fiscal 2022, as well as other improvements.   

The plan moves on to the Isle of Wight Board of Supervisors, which controls school spending.  {/mprestriction}