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Schools see increases in enrollment

Brookhaven and Lincoln County school officials saw an increase in enrollment in their final enrollment numbers they recently submitted to the Mississippi Department of Education for the 2012-2013 school year.

     That number will determine how much money the school districts get per student and will be used by the state for other measurements.

     Lincoln County School District records showed enrollment topped 3,000 students this year. The increase of 104 students from the 2011-2012 school year to this year put the district over 3,000 students for the first time in three years.

     The Brookhaven School District is also seeing an enrollment bump with 2,942 students enrolled. That’s 35 more than during the 2011-2012 school year at the same point.

     Brookhaven schools are seeing an uptick in enrollment after spending two consecutive years in decline.

     Dr. Lisa Karmacharya, Brookhaven superintendent, said the increase in enrollment was a good thing.

     “It’s exciting to see enrollment go up,” she said. “It means that we’re doing good things and are headed in the right direction. More children bring more opportunities, and we embrace those opportunities.”

     Lincoln County School District Superintendent Terry Brister said the continued growth of the district is a good sign.

     “Hopefully it means more people are interested in our schools,” he said. “That would be complimentary of our schools’ success. Hopefully we have an environment and educational goals that people are looking for, and that makes us feel proud.”

     But schools can only grow so much without experiencing growing pains. Brister said the district has had to turn down requests for out-of-district transfers due to a lack of space, with at least 100 requests per year being denied.

     “Every school in this district’s enrollment would increase significantly if we allowed every out-of-district transfer,” he said. “We accept as many as are financially feasible.”

     Brister said the growth is reaching a critical stage. If it continues like it has, the district will either have to hire more teachers, build more classrooms or a combination of both.

     “If the trends continue and our success with academics and success of our schools, we’ll have to do something in two to three years to accommodate the growth,” said Brister.

     He said it remains to be seen which schools would need additional teachers or classrooms first.

     If new buildings or teachers are needed at some point, Brister said it would not put a financial strain on the district. The Lincoln County School District received a glowing financial audit in September that showed it was in great financial position with ample cash reserves.

     “Our finances are in great shape,” said Brister. “We’re prepared for the future. That is a result of the work of our school board. They’ve taken great pride in making sure we’re financially stable.”

     Brookhaven schools are not having problems with the additional students now, and Karmacharya does not expect that to happen anytime soon.

     “We haven’t had any problems with overcrowding or anything,” she said. “We have some rooms we could convert into classrooms if needed.”

     Within the BSD, Mamie Martin Elementary School saw the biggest increase in enrollment, going up by 44 students from last year for a total of 824.

     “I think that says a lot for our staff there,” said Karmacharya. “All of our schools have excellent teachers and staff. Martin is our gateway to the district. They do great things there by nurturing and teaching the children. I’d say it speaks volumes for our staff at Martin.”

     Karmacharya said she hopes the additional enrollment becomes a trend that sends the district back over the 3,000-student threshold.

     “The more we do to embrace our capacity for leadership in our classrooms and administration, the more people recognize the strengths we have in our district and take advantage of the quality programs that we offer,” she said.