Even with job losses, enrollment up slightly

Power plant may move RISD into 'rich district' category for taxes
By MIKE BROWN Reporter Editor

Almost one year after Alcoa closed its Rockdale smelter there's no decrease in enrollment forecast for the Rockdale ISD, which begins its classes Monday.

In fact, the RISD is looking for 1,674 students to begin the 2009- 10 school term, up two from 1,672 last year.

Supt. Dr. Howell Wright's forecast to school trustees Monday, based on pre-school enrollment reports from all four campuses, was a shock on several levels.

Enrollment had been steadily declining in the district for several years, well before Alcoa started shutting down the smelter.

New facilities

"It is still a puzzle to understand the impact of the Alcoa shut down on student enrollment," Dr. Wright said.

A lcoa announced June 19, 2008, that three potlines of the six-potline facility were closing. On Sept. 30 the company announced the remaining three potlines were going down.

"Some families are choosing to send their children to Rockdale ISD because of our new facilities," Dr. Wright said. "And others are doing it because they know this is a good school system and their children can get a good education."

Forecast is for Rockdale High School enrollment to drop by 8, from 523 to 515.

Junior-high enrollment is pre- dicted to increase by 8, from 384 to 392.

Last year's elementary first-day enrollment was 765. Combined elementary-intermediate enrollment Monday is forecast to be 767, an increase of two.

'Robin Hood'

Trustees, meeting in regular session in the Central Administration Building, also heard Dr. Wright warn some day in the not-to-distant future Rockdale ISD might have to send some of its locally generated tax money to the state or to other school districts.

That's because Rockdale ISD is slipping into the "wealthy school" category, known as Chapter 41, according to the state.

Prime factor is the new Luminant Sandow 5 power plant, Dr. Wright said.

The provision, part of what's been called the state's "Robin Hood" approach to equalizing school financing, could lead to Rockdale ISD choosing a statemandated option to remedy its Chapter 41 status.

"Two of those options I don't think I even need to mention before this board," Dr. Wright said. "That's consolidating with another district or giving up some of the Rockdale ISD's property."

Many districts faced with similar situations have "sold" their weighted average daily attendance (WADA), on which Chapter 41 eligibility is based to other districts, a practice that's no longer the most beneficial option, Dr. Wright said.

The option most in vogue now is simply transferring some locally generated tax revenue to the state, he said.

Dr. Wright said enough information has not yet been received by the district to determine if a course of action is needed this year but the Chapter 41 spectre will loom over the Rockdale ISD for years to come.

Bowser Street

Board member Lee Jenkins asked the district to consider asking the City of Rockdale to re-designate Bowser Street a twoway thoroughfare from Murray to Bell during elementary rush hours.

That street was one of several designated one-way in an attempt to improve traffic flow around the campus.

Rockdale Elementary now has only half the students it had last year due to construction of the new intermediate school on a separate campus.

"We've corked up Childress (a portion of RHS was built over the street)," Jenkins said. "If you're a parent with kids in three campuses you've really got to negotiate a maze to get them all there with Childress in two parts and all the one-ways around the elementary."

In other business, trustees:

• Heard Dr. Wright note that dedication ceremonies for the new schools would be held during the first two months of the new term. "These will be separate from open houses," he said.

• Heard Penny Curry, assistant superintendent for instruction, report on the district's School Health Advisory Committee.

• Okayed a modified scheduling waiver request for students who have mastered, or are exempt, from TAKS testing.

Aug. 2009 Aug. Number Percent
Estimate 2008 Change Change
RHS 515 523 -8 -1.5
Junior-high 392 384 +8 +2.1
Intermediate 379 NA
Elementary 388 NA
Total, preK - 5 767 765 +2 +0.3
Total, RISD 1,674 1,672 +2 +0.01

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