Enrollment figures stop 5-year trend, show slight rise

By MIKE BROWN Reporter Editor

Students are delivered via bus on first day at new high school entrance. Officials expect 1,700 total students to enroll. Students are delivered via bus on first day at new high school entrance. Officials expect 1,700 total students to enroll. Build it and they will come.

The Rockdale ISD opened 151,224 new square feet of school buildings Monday and reversed a five-year trend of first-day enrollment declines.

Despite losing Rockdale's major industry during the past year, the district enrolled 1,677 students on Monday.

That's up five from the 1,672 who answered the first bell of the 2008-09 school term last year.

'Great schools, facilities'

At the end of the 2008-09 term, with the area still reeling from the Alcoa smelter shutdown, no one would have dared predict anything but a continued enrollment decline.

Rockdale ISD's first-day enrollment had declined every year since 2004 when 1,851 students turned up for the first day of classes.

Instead, enrollment increased for the first time since 2004-05.

"I don't have any real answers as to why our enrollment held up so well, despite the local economic situation," Dr. Howell Wright, Rockdale ISD superintendent, said.

"But I do believe people understand we have great schools and great facilities here," he said. "They want their children in our school system."

An expanded-renovated high school and brand new intermediate campus (grades 3-5) opened Monday.

Lower grades increase

The enrollment increase came from the lower grades. Grades pre-K through five enrolled 790 Monday, up 25 from 765 last year.

High school enrollment was down 18, from 523 last year to 505 on Monday.

At the junior-high, enrollment was steady, 382 on Monday, compared to 384 last year.

The lower the grade, the higher the enrollment increase. Pre-K had the largest increase with 16.

1,700 students forecast

"I feel we probably would have had an increase at the junior-high on Monday if we hadn't had the power problems," Dr. Wright said. (See separate story.)

"We're looking for even more students to enroll this week," he added. "We're going to be at or above 1,700 in pretty short order."

The bottom line on first-day enrollment:

"People like living in Rockdale, and I know they appreciate our schools and are proud of our new facilities," Dr. Wright said.

August August Number Percent
2009 2008 Change Change
RHS 505 523 -18 -3.4
Junior-high 382 384 -2 -0.5
Intermediate 363 NA
Elementary 427 NA
Total, preK - 5 790 765 +25 +3.3
Total, RISD 1,677 1,672 +5 +0.03

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