Bastrop ISD has reached a milestone. For the first time, the district’s enrollment is more than 10,000 students.
One month into the 2015-16 school year, 10,264 students are enrolled in the district’s 15 campuses, more than 700 students more than the district’s official enrollment for the previous school year.
“[This growth] is significant because it distinguishes Bastrop ISD as one of the 10 largest districts in the Central Texas area," Superintendent Steve Murray said.
The district has grown more than 7 percent since its official enrollment count last school year, and more than 40% over the past 15 years.
“We’ve watched this increased enrollment happen in districts around us, all across Central Texas, and it is nothing different for Bastrop ISD,” Emily Parks, Executive Director of Communications & Community Services said. “Fortunately, Bastrop ISD has been forward-thinking and is prepared for this rapid enrollment growth. That puts us ahead of the curb in dealing with the challenges that can come with it.”
Some of those challenges include staffing, student capacity, and increased costs related to supplies, transportation, and more, and the earlier the district can plan, the better. Bastrop ISD administration began planning for the start of the 2015-16 school year back in January.
“The first thing we do is look at demographics, estimate student growth and look at what our state funding might be,” Sandra Callahan, Chief Financial Officer for BISD, said. “We estimate state aid very conservatively so we are certain we will have adequate funding along with local tax dollars to meet the needs of our students.”
Once the district has a clear picture of how many more students are enrolling in Bastrop schools, administration works closely with principals to go over the impacts of increased enrollment: how many more staff are needed, what supply costs could be, and if there are additional programs needed to meet the needs of students.
“It is very important for us to plan ahead of time so we can hire the very best staff,” Deputy Superintendent Barry Edwards said. “This year, we were well ahead of the game and had nearly all our staff needs met before the year started. Getting those teachers and staff hired early on in the process ensures stability in our classrooms, less movement for kids, and makes it easier for us to continue planning the rest of the year.”
Enrollment outpacing capacity
Aside from funding and operating costs, the district must look closely at its facilities each year. With additional students flocking to Bastrop schools, facility needs are becoming more apparent, and administrators have taken notice. Including portable classrooms, the district’s current facilities can accommodate a little more than 13,000 students from Pre-K-12th grade.
While district enrollment is a few years from topping that, at the intermediate/middle school level, capacities are a bit tighter. Currently the district has 3,066 intermediate and middle school students, but only space available for 3,244. With the surge of upper-elementary students enrolling in Bastrop ISD, it won’t be long before those facilities face a capacity issue.
“We are working with architects and master planners to engage staff, students and community members in a long-range facility planning process to address this growth,” Murray said. “This committee has held several preliminary meetings to look at demographic projections, current facility assessment data and options for future facility improvements or additions the district may need.”
The committee will reconvene once the district updates its current strategic plan to a new Strategic Design and creates the new Bastrop ISD Learner Profile. The details of that plan will help shape the needs of current and future learners in BISD, both on the academic and facilities side.
“We will merge the Strategic Design, Learner Profile and Facility Master Plan in the end to transform our educational philosophy, innovate our learning environments and provide the very best education possible for Bastrop ISD students,” Murray said.With many families looking for quality housing in a convenient location near the Austin metroplex, Bastrop will continue to see student enrollment rise. Fortunately, with a plan in place, and a close look at how to manage the growth, Bastrop ISD will stay ahead of the curve.
Current enrollment of the Top 10 largest districts in Central Texas:
Austin ISD: 84,591
Round Rock ISD: 47,494
Leander ISD: 37,298
Pflugerville ISD: 24,697*
Hays ISD: 18,592
Del Valle ISD: 11,342
Georgetown ISD: 10,970*
Bastrop ISD: 10,264
Lake Travis ISD: 9,193
Manor ISD: 8,807
*Enrollment estimated at 3% growth of 2014-15 enrollment