EDITOR'S NOTE: Page 25A of the Oct. 24 print edition of the Middletown Transcript includes a breakdown of student enrollment by school from 2011 to 2013, as well as individual building capacity numbers.
The Appoquinimink School District set a new student enrollment record last month, marking its tenth straight year of growth.
District-wide enrollment increased by 132 students to 9,751 in 2013, a jump of 1.37 percent over the 2012 unit count, according to district finance director Chuck Longfellow.
"The unit count is an enrollment snapshot that every district has to provide to the state by Sept. 30 of each year," Longfellow said. "It essentially determines the state funding levels for the coming year."
While the number of students currently enrolled in Appoquinimink schools is more than at any other time in the district's history, the year-to-year increase from 2012 to 2013 is relatively small compared to the enrollment growth the district experienced over the past two decades.
For the third-straight year, Appoquinimink recorded enrollment growth of less than 2 percent – a far cry from the 6 to 10 percent annual growth the district saw in seven out of the ten years between 1998 and 2008.
"That was the heart of our housing boom, and you can see the enrollment increases start to decline after the economy crashed in late 2008," Longfellow said. "While there are reports of the housing market in the area beginning to pick back up, there is usually a delayed effect in terms of student enrollment, because even though some families move into the area with children, others move here to start families."
While the rate of growth appears to be slowing, the trend of rising student enrollment is continuing to set new records for both grade levels and individual schools.
For instance, the fifth-, sixth-, eighth-, ninth, eleventh- and twelfth-grade classes have each hit record size this year, with the 845 freshman enrolled at Appoquinimink and Middletown high schools topping the previous record high for any grade level in district history.
Kindergarten has the fewest number of students among the grade levels this year, with 597 enrolled in the district's three operating early childhood centers. Yet that number is still greater what had been the largest class at any level prior to 2005.
Collectively, the early childhood centers saw a decline in year-to-year enrollment of 11 students or 1.6 percent, from 2012 to 2013. However, the school board's decision to close Appoquinimink Early Childhood Center in Middletown resulted in the three operating centers each seeing their enrollments increase substantially, particularly Spring Meadow in Townsend, which added 98 new kindergarteners this year, or a 66 percent increase, for a total enrollment of 247 students.
Cedar Lane Early Childhood Center, meanwhile, added 59 students for a total enrollment of 267, or slightly above its building capacity of 265.
Page 2 of 2 - District-wide elementary school enrollment declined by 40 students or 1.1 percent. Bunker Hill, Brick Mill and Silver Lake elementary schools saw overall enrollment declines, while Cedar Lane, Olive B. Loss and Old State elementary schools saw enrollment growth.
Old State remained the district's largest elementary school with 790 students, although those numbers have been inflated by the addition of students from Townsend Elementary School, which is expected to reopen in 2014.
Old State, Cedar Lane Olive B. Loss elementary schools are all above their respective building capacities.
The district's three middle schools collectively experienced a 3.2 percent increase in enrollment by adding another 75 students, 66 of whom are attending Redding Middle School, which experienced an 8.8 percent enrollment boom this year. That's the largest jump of any school outside of the early childhood centers.
However, all three middle schools remain below their respective building capacities.
Appoquinimink High School saw its enrollment increase by 29 students, or 1.9 percent, for a student body of 1,576. That's just above its building capacity of 1,570.
Middletown High added 79 students, or an increase of 6.4 percent. That puts its total student body at 1,319, well below its building capacity of 1,570
District officials are currently using the new enrollment numbers to determine how many students from outside the district will be allowed to use state-mandated school choice to enroll in the Appoquinimink School District next year.
A school choice information meeting for all parents and community members will be held at in the auditorium at Alfred G. Waters Middle School at 7 p.m. on Oct. 28.