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After a drop in enrollment last year, Hardin County Schools has rebounded this school year with more than 14,000 students in the district.
Enrollment at HCS is more than 300 students more than projections for the school year. With the transition the district has seen in the past few months, it actually represents several hundred new students attending the district, with even more expected.
New students have created a need to hire 17 additional teachers in the district and a few instructional aids. Hiring is based on student-teacher ratios, and schools must see final numbers after school starts before they can hire additional staff.
The elementary student-teacher ratio is 24 students to 1 teacher, while the middle and high school ratio is 26 to 1.
The growth this year follows a drop in enrollment last year, as the district never saw the number of students they expected for the year, said Bobby Lewis, associate superintendent for student services. Lewis projected the district to enroll about 13,820 this school year.
The district also had about 400 other students request records for moves to other schools, Lewis said.
But as of Tuesday, the fifth day of the school year, the district has enrolled 14,126 students, which means it has enrolled enough students to replace the 400 who moved, plus an additional 306.
Lewis said enrollment tends to continue to grow until September, so he expects to see a few hundred more students.
Lewis said the majority of students are from out of state, but he doesn’t know what caused the sudden increase. He speculated the number of available houses and desirable location of Hardin County could be factors.
Lewis said the increase over projections isn’t completely new.
“We have seen it before, just maybe not this early on,” he said.
However, the increase after coming in low the previous year is unheard of, he said.
“I’ve never seen a swing like this before,” he said.
The growth is fairly widespread, with almost every school above its projected enrollment. Fourteen schools need at least one additional teacher.
Central Hardin High School is the largest school in the district, with 1,834 students, though that is 36 students less than expected.
New Highland Elementary School and East Hardin and Bluegrass middle schools experienced the most growth, and each will hire two more teachers.
Lewis said the schools make do without the extra staff in many ways, including using substitutes and expanding classroom sizes until a new teacher can be hired and a new class can be created.
New Highland Principal Mark Thomas said he is shifting assistants to help in large classes until he can hire new staff members. One teacher probably will take a fourth- and fifth-grade class and another likely will enable the school to create a new kindergarten class, he said.
Large classes create some problems with the time it takes for them to go through the cafeteria line or take restroom breaks, Thomas said.
“It’s one of those problems that’s a good problem,” he said, as schools like to have a full house.
East Hardin Principal Dan Lockwood said for a short period of time, its classrooms will have more students than officials prefer in a room, but Lockwood hopes to hire a sixth-grade teacher and an eighth-grade teacher by next week.
They’ll have to move some students around, but staff will try to do that by student choice as much as possible, he said.
Lockwood said he also didn’t know what caused the influx of students, but he thinks it could be partially because of the district’s reputation.
Kelly Cantrall can be reached at (270) 505-1747 or firstname.lastname@example.org.