Public school enrollment up to 9,029|[09/14/07]

Published 12:00 am Friday, September 14, 2007

After a month of classes began Aug. 8, student enrollment has climbed to expected levels, said Vicksburg Warren School District officials.

On Tuesday, there were 9,029 students. “That’s just right where we figured we’d be,” said Superintendent James Price.

Two weeks earlier, officials reported that about 200 students had yet to show up. They blamed a variety of factors. Some parents were unable to get their children to let go and take the next step, while other parents were unable to let go themselves. Other parents took their time completing enrollment paperwork.

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Whatever the reason, parents may face legal sanctions under the Mississippi Compulsory School Attendance Law, which requires that all children aged 6 to 17 be enrolled in and regularly attend school or be in a home school program.

Last year, a 36-year-old Vicksburg woman was sentenced to a six-month suspended jail term and five years unsupervised probation when she tried to enroll her 10-year-old son. An investigation found that the child had never attended school. The woman pled no contest to the charges.

After five unexcused absences, parents receive a letter from Warren County School Attendance Officers, investigators employed by the state to track chronically absent students reported to them by the VWSD. A student who racks up 12 unexcused absences could land his or her parents or guardians in court.

The VWSD has seen steady growth over the last four years, said Price. In August 2003, there were 8,746 students on the rolls. A gain of about 100 students each year has continued since, he said. Much of the growth has been outside the city, prompting the VWSD to announce plans to reopen Bovina Elementary next fall after being shuttered since 1999 when the district returned to the community schools model.

“At the elementaries, we’re about at capacity,” said Price. “We’re steadily growing a little bit more each year.”

“This year we picked up about six students after Labor Day,” said Beechwood Elementary Principal Jack Grogan. And enrollment is up about 60 students over last year he said. “I’ve had to add another 4th grade class, a 3rd grade class and a second grade class,” said Grogan. Home to more than 700 students, Beechwood is the largest elementary in the district, although two consolidated elementaries have a larger population of students on site. The school has an average of 23 students per class.

While the student population has stabilized somewhat, holidays and breaks often prompt more movement, said Price and Grogan.

“It’s just one of those things you have to deal with. You just never know how many will actually show up when the doors open,” Grogan said.