Student enrollments up in Berryville but down slightly in Green Forest

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

CARROLL COUNTY -- With the first week of classes behind them, area school administrators are beginning to take stock of student enrollment.

Preliminary numbers show student populations falling slightly in Green Forest and on the rise in Berryville.

Green Forest School District secretary Gayla Newberry said 1,222 students had reported to class so far this year, a drop of about 2 percent from the 1,249 students enrolled in the district last year.

Newberry stressed that these results were still tentative. The districts will not take a final head count until Sept. 3. On that date, all students who have not reported to class will be dropped from the district enrollment lists.

While Green Forest schools are seeing fewer students this year, the Berryville School District is experiencing enrollment growth.

Berryville Superintendent Randy Byrd indicated an increase of 7 percent over last year's enrollment.

He said 1,968 students had shown up for school so far this year, compared with 1,840 students enrolled in the district last year. Byrd said this growth was consistent with recent years.

Despite the influx of students, Berryville administrators said they were coping well.

Byrd said he had no plans to hire additional teachers, although two special education instructors recently joined the staff. "Right now, we can make it with what we've got," he said.

Classroom space, though "pretty close to maxed out," was sufficient for the time being, he said.

Though numbers are up in many grades, Berryville Middle School is feeling the growth pangs more acutely than others . So far this year, the school has seen 503 students. Byrd did not have figures available for last year.

Middle School Principal Shelly Osnes told the school board at their Aug. 20 meeting that she had trouble finding enough seats in the cafeteria for all the students on the first day of classes.

On Aug. 27, Osnes said she had no shortage of class room space. However, she said the eighth grade was particularly crowded, with 186 students.

Osnes has begun tapping high school staff to teach some eighth grade periods, in order to comply with laws limiting the number of students in any one class.

Some eighth grade classes were also meeting in a shared hallway between the middle and high schools, she said.

Other principals had less difficulty than Osnes.

Elementary School Principal David Gilmore said he was "in pretty good shape."

"We are not maxed out in any of our classes," he said.

Meanwhile, Intermediate School Principal Teresa Wright said she still had "a little room for more growth."

Berryville High School Principal Randall Betts could not be reached for comment Monday.

Administrators said they were not certain what was driving growth, although Byrd and Osnes speculated that tough economic times might be a factor. Osnes said she had heard stories of cash-strapped transplants forced to move back home and live with relatives.

Gilmore and Wright conjectured that some families might have been lured to the area by job growth at Tyson over the past year.

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