School bells to ring on Monday

Enrollment expected to be near last year’s in post-Alcoa town

Wright Wright There’s always some curiosity over first-day-of-school enrollment but when Rockdale students head back to class on Monday those numbers will be more important than usual.

They could provide the first real gauge of how deeply Alcoa’s closing has affected Rockdale.

The preliminary news is good. “We’re looking for an enrollment very close to the 1,677 we opened the 2009-10 term with,” Supt. Dr. Howell Wr ight said.

Last year’s figure was unexpected. It actually represented an increase of five students over the previous August and reversed a four-year decline.

But at that point many laid-off Alcoans were still drawing supplementary unemployment benefit (SUB) pay, which masked the real effects of the massive layoffs on the community.

That won’t be the case Monday.

RHS eyes gain

The Rockdale ISD has tried to track enrollment through the summer to get a handle on what to expect this term.

Principals have found some evidence of families moving from Rockdale with some, but not all, citing jobs lost at Alcoa.

A recent study by Workforce Solutions of Central Texas (WSCT) found more and half the 884 former Alcoans listed on layoff were either working again or re-training.

“We believe we’re looking at some losses in the elementaryintermediate grades, compared to last year, a slight loss at the juniorhigh and a gain at the high school,” Dr. Wright said.

Last year’s first-day figures were 790 for pre-K to 5 (elementaryintermediate), 382 in grades 6-8 (junior-high) and 505 in grades 9-12 (high school).

“Of course it’s really difficult to predict pre-K and that’s a big part of the elementary enrollment,” Dr. Wright said.


Rockdale’s economy hasn’t stood still since Alcoa closed its smelter in 2008. There has been both negative and positive news.

“The layoffs at the hospital sort of caught us by surprise, so far as our estimates,” Dr. Wright said. “Obviously that’s going to have an effect on quite a few families.”

On July 30 Blackhawk Healthcare laid off an estimated 30 to 40 persons from a work force of 200 at Richards Memorial Hospital, part of a system-wide cutback.

But Dr. Wright noted the new GFL business, which manufactures a Teflon-like compound known as Inoflon, continues to grow and has the potential to have a positive effect on RISD enrollment.

GFL is located on US 77 near Rockdale.


There aren’t as many changes in the RISD as last year, when the district opened what amounted to two new campuses, but there are some new faces.

Joey Geletka is the new high school principal and teacher-coach Brent Hasselbach has moved into the assistant principal’s position.

Several teachers will be using new “SMART” boards, blackboardsized touch screen computers systems with virtually unlimited potential.

And there have been substantial kitchen and cooling upgrades at the junior-high during the summer.

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