TWIN FALLS — As the Magic Valley’s population continues to grow, it’s no surprise many schools are expecting more students.
This spring, south-central Idaho school districts are looking at enrollment projections for next school year. It allows school officials to gauge how many teachers are needed, allowing schools to start the hiring process.
Large school districts — such as Twin Falls and Jerome — are expecting an uptick in student numbers for the 2018-19 school year, with a growth rate similar to this year. But many small, rural districts — including Buhl, Hansen, Bliss and Shoshone — are predicting flat numbers.
It’s still a tossup how many students will actually arrive on the first day of school and which schools they’re end up at.
“It’s all kind of a guessing game,” Twin Falls School District spokeswoman Eva Craner said.
Typically, the Twin Falls School District’s enrollment grows 3 to 4 percentage points each year. It’s projecting 9,773 students for the 2018-19 school year, up a few hundred compared with this year.
The district doesn’t have enrollment estimates for individual schools. But its two newest elementary schools — Pillar Falls and Rock Creek, which both opened in 2016 — are expected to continue to grow.
“We expect that to grow just based on the housing developments expected to be put in over the next year,” Craner said.
When planning for next school year, “elementary is really kind of the challenge because we see a lot more fluctuation with student numbers,” Craner said.
One way you can help: If you have children in the Twin Falls School District and are planning to move this summer — whether to another Twin Falls school or out of the city — let the school district know.
“It helps a lot,” Craner said.
Here’s a look at enrollment projections for five other Magic Valley school districts:
The Jerome School District, which has about 4,000 students, is expecting 2 percent growth next school year — an additional 50-100 students.
A big reason for the growth: large grade levels of students are moving through the school system, replacing smaller graduating classes. About 230 high school seniors are graduating this year, while school officials are expecting 300 kindergartners coming in next school year.
The larger groups of students began when this year’s high school sophomores were in kindergarten, Superintendent Dale Layne said. “As they move through, the middle school already experienced all of those larger classes. A lot of growth was three to four years ago.”
Now, Jerome High School is feeling the largest impact.
“The high school next year is going to bump up again by about 50 kids,” Layne said, with a total of more than 1,100 students. He expects that growth will continue.
School district workers are renovating a building on Jerome High’s campus with four classrooms to use next school year. It used to house technology classes, but those were moved into the main school building.
“We’re trying to get as many kids into the main building as possible just for safety purposes,” Layne said, but some classes — such as agriculture — are still in separate buildings.
Jerome High School has already worked to prepare for growth. It opened a new wing of its building, including more classroom space, in August 2016. Renovations cost about $19 million, paid for using a nearly $24 million bond voters approved in March 2014.
Among the Magic Valley’s rural school districts, Murtaugh is bucking the trend of flat enrollment. It’s expecting a 10-15 percent increase in student numbers, for a total of about 400 children in kindergarten through 12th grades.
The Cassia County School District, which has 5,562 students now, is expecting 60-70 more students for next school year.
“We know that new businesses are coming to the Mini-Cassia area and this may be a bit low, but we like to be conservative,” superintendent’s secretary Pam Teeter wrote in an email to the Times-News.
The Minidoka County School District is predicting it will have 4,250 students next school year, a 50-student increase. But Superintendent Ken Cox said he expects a larger influx the year after that due to “current and projected housing developments.”
The Blaine County School District expects to gain just eight students, for a total of 3,394.