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FAYETTEVILLE -- Rising student numbers on some campuses have led school district officials to search for a company to study enrollment patterns.

The study is needed to verify the hunches and observations of staff and community members, Superintendent Matthew Wendt said. District officials also will have information necessary to know whether discussions are needed on boundary line adjustments.

Changes in enrollment in Fayetteville schools

Campus * 2016-17 * 2015-16 * 2014-15

Asbell Elementary School* 305 * 341 * 389

Butterfield Trail Elementary School* 530 * 523 * 631

Fayetteville High School* 2,882 * 2,764 * 2,001

Fayetteville Virtual Academy (opened 2016-17) * 48 * - * -

Happy Hollow Elementary School* 473 * 470 * 493

Holcomb Elementary School* 620 * 593 * 587

Holt Middle School* 441 * 444 * 606

Leverett Elementary School* 291 * 279 * 321

McNair Middle School* 755 * 725 * 693

Owl Creek School* 790 * 779 * 850

Ramay Junior High School* 626 * 710 * 652

Root Elementary School* 410 * 402 * 494

Vandergriff Elementary School* 598 * 562 * 688

Washington Elementary School* 333 * 314 * 342

Woodland Junior High School* 762 * 746 * 756

Total* 9,864 * 9,652 * 9,503

Source: Arkansas Department of Education

Wendt expects the company to spend the summer evaluating the academic capacity of schools and the fall analyzing and projecting enrollment over the next five years.

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"I want to be able to share with the community what the community wants and deserves to know," Wendt said. "Are schools crowded? If so, at what school is there a capacity issue?"

Enrollment is expected to surpass 10,000 students within the next two school years, Wendt said.

The district grew by more than 200 students between the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school years to 9,864 students, according to records from the Arkansas Department of Education.

Wendt this spring announced plans to add 25 new teachers in response to increases in student enrollment and to restore some positions that had been cut in recent years.

Wendt, at a recent board meeting, discussed the administration's search for a demographer and planner company. About a dozen companies last fall submitted proposals to offer services for the district. The list was narrowed to three finalists from three states: Davis Demographics, based in Riverside, Calif.; RSP & Associates, based in Overland Park, Kan.; and Templeton Demographics, based in Southlake, Texas.

Wendt has not been part of the selection process because he is a personal friend with the president of RSP & Associates and has been a consultant for the company, he said. He has not worked with the company in more than a year, but will not be part of the process of choosing or recommending a firm, he said.

The finalists were interviewed May 26 by a 17-member committee, led by John L Colbert, the district's associate superintendent for support services. School Board member Susan Heil served in Wendt's place, he said. The committee is checking references of the firms and researching their fees.

Conversations come up within the community about crowding at schools, such as Holcomb Elementary and McNair Middle School, but other campuses have space, including Leverett Elementary School, School Board President Justin Eichmann said.

"There's a sense from the community from what I've heard that we're in a growth phase," Eichmann said. "People are seeing houses and big apartment buildings going up everywhere."

Eichmann has heard quite a bit discussion about adjusting the lines of school attendance zones to make better use of all of the district's campuses, he said.

Boundary discussions are hard work, but Eichmann said he's ready for that discussion.

Eichmann remembers a yearlong discussion a few years ago about a proposal to adjust attendance zones, he said. The proposal resulted in minor tweaks. The last significant change to boundary lines occurred in 2006 with the opening of Owl Creek School.

The shift of fifth grade to middle school, seventh grade to junior high school and ninth grade to high school in 2015-16 temporarily relieved some pressure, but a number of elementary schools are full again, Eichmann said.

The growth at Holcomb Elementary led to fifth-grade classes being moved to Holt Middle School in the 2010-11 school year, Holcomb Principal Tracy Mulvenon said.

The move of about 100 fifth-graders out of Holcomb provided some room for growth that has continued, Mulvenon said.

"If you look at the economic growth, this is where more starter homes and affordable housing are located," Mulvenon said. "It's a wonderful thing for Fayetteville that there is growth and affordable housing. It seems to be in pockets."

Fifth-grade classes at all other district elementary schools were shifted to middle schools in 2015-16. That was the year ninth-grade classes moved to the high school, and seventh-grade classes to the junior high schools.

Holcomb had about 620 students in the 2016-17 school year, according to the Arkansas Department of Education. They filled seven classes of kindergarten; five classes each of first-, second- and third-graders; and four fourth-grade classes. In 2017-18, Mulvenon expects seven classes of kindergarten, six classes of first-graders and five classes each of second- through fourth-graders.

"We're using all of our spaces now that we can," Mulvenon said. "Beyond next year, we won't be able to add any more classrooms."

Housing development is occurring on the east and west sides of Fayetteville, said Andy Harrison, development coordinator for Fayetteville. Neighborhoods are going up in areas between Wedington Drive and Martin Luther King Boulevard, west of Interstate 49.

Housing development also is occurring around Dead Horse Mountain Road near the Stonebridge Meadows Golf Club.

Since January, the city has given permission for housing construction in three subdivisions that combined have 131 lots, according to city records. Another three subdivisions with 176 lots are pending approval for housing construction to begin. The city also has approved the development of streets, sidewalks and lots for four more subdivisions with a total of 397 lots. The total number of lots in those subdivisions is 704.

Work on sidewalks and streets must finish before a developer can seek approval for housing construction to begin, Harrison said

NW News on 06/04/2017

Print Headline: Fayetteville prepares to hire demographer to study school enrollment

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