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   2014 39.95 HSD w VIDor PH-Banner2-500-x-125

School enrollment in King George always tricky to predict

King George school division Superintendent Candace Brown recently reported to the School Board that the July 20 enrollment count for the upcoming 2009-10 school year was estimated at 4,032 students, including 55 kindergarten students whose enrollment is projected.  
Here’s the breakdown:
King George High School – 1,258 students
King George Middle School – 644 students
King George Elementary School – 833 students
Potomac Elementary School – 464 students
Sealston Elementary School – 833 students
That adds up to a grand total of 4,032 students, which Brown said incidentally was the same number the school division had on March 31, 2009, (though the average daily membership for the year came to 3,992, which is based on a daily calculation made over the course of the school year).
Brown’s recent estimate of student capacity in the five schools that will be used for the coming year is 5,106.  (See related article in this issue.)
That capacity figure provides over a thousand student slots more than the estimated enrollment number.  
That should provide a cushion for several years to come, especially with one school just closed down.

FORMER MIDDLE SCHOOL CLOSED

The School Board decided last fall to discontinue use of the existing King George Middle School for an indefinite time beginning this summer.  
They had planned to use it as an intermediate school beginning this coming fall to house 5th and 6th grades.  
And that’s what they told the Board of Supervisors at a joint meeting on October 29, 2008, when county officials asked if it might be available for county use.
Six weeks later, the School Board voted to maintain the status quo for the current grade levels in the schools, which had the result of indefinitely postponing the plan to open the middle school building as an intermediate school or for any other use.  
The plans to use the middle school building in the upcoming school year were scrapped due to costs.  
Close to $3 million was the cost estimate for startup and operating costs for the first year of an intermediate school in that existing middle school building.
$1,282,506 had been estimated for the annual, recurring costs of operations for an intermediate school to pay for administrators, faculty, guidance and support staff, along with equipment, books and supplies.
And one-time costs of $1,450,975 were estimated to replace the heating, air conditioning and ventilation system (HVAC), construct a new well, purchase and install a multi-media system, and refurbish the school’s existing lecture room.
The cost of replacing the HVAC was subsequently estimated by the division at a higher amount, but the county is now assessing the HVAC system to see what work it really needs.
The county is expected to also assess the water system at some point in the future, likely after the School Board decides they need to reopen it and what grades it will house.
So, whenever the former middle school building comes back online for whatever grade levels, it will add back at least 600 student slots according to Brown’s latest estimated capacity for the school which was shut down at the end of this past school year.
She had previously told the Board of Supervisors in 2003 that the former middle school building could accommodate 737 students as the state’s rated capacity for the building.
TWO NEW SCHOOLS REQUESTED
In addition to the 1,074 slots currently available and the 600-737 student slots available when the former middle school building comes back online, the School Board is also requesting that two new schools be constructed.  
They first started asking for a fourth elementary school in Fall 2006, two years after Sealston Elementary opened.  
At that time, the School Board submitted a request to the county for $18 million to build and open a new elementary school in 2010-11.  No amount was listed for the acquisition of land on which to site a new school.  
The next year, in November 2008, they increased the cost estimate to $20 million and asked for completion of the school in 2012-13.  
Also, in November 2008, the School Board decided it also needed a new middle school for $35 million also for completion in 2012-13.  
The county has continued to push the projects into the future, since more school building seems premature.  
After all, a new high school just opened earlier this year, which added about 1,000 student slots to the capacity total.  Also, the School Board voted to and subsequently shut down the former middle school in the meantime.
REVENUE BASED ON ENROLLMENT
While on the topic of enrollment, it is noteworthy that the current 2009-10 budget, including state revenue to the school division, is based on an estimated number of 4,130 students.
That’s nearly 100 students more than Brown’s current estimated enrollment for the coming year.  
Whether it will go up that high and beyond, or hover much lower, is anybody’s guess.  
It simply shows that again this year, enrollment tallies must be closely monitored to ensure the division does not find itself in the same boat it was in during January 2008, when state and federal revenue shortfalls were brought publicly to light by Brown for 2007-08.
Brown had begun by projecting a revenue shortfall of upwards of $800K, but it ended up being even higher at more than a million dollars less than budgeted.
Painful cuts were made and Supervisors also helped by bridging a portion of the gap with additional appropriations.
Then, for this past 2008-09 school year, the state had originally estimated King George’s average daily membership (ADM) figure at 4,095.
Supervisors provided an amount for local revenue for last year based on about 100 fewer students than the state used and the ADM ended up at 3,992.
It was a good thing that the School Board followed through with urgings by the county to be prudent in its budgeting to try to forestall a repeat performance of mid-year cuts for the second year in a row.   
For 2008-09, the School Board had directed that the possible additional state revenue would be placed in line items for spending only if the enrollment went higher to support the higher state revenue figures.
While other divisions across the state were cutting back in mid-year, the King George division never actually encumbered the “phantom” revenue it didn’t get, so didn’t have to deal with budget cuts.

 

By Phyllis Cook, Staff Reporter

 



 

 

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