Assistant Superintendent Mark Cooper presented a Full-Time Employee Report during last week’s Big Walnut board of education meeting.
Following the meeting, Cooper provided a few numbers of general interest culled from the report and discussed their on the school district in a phone interview.
Cooper said the total number of students enrolled in Big Walnut’s seven buildings, especially this early in a school year, changes on a daily basis, but the growth trend is upward.
“The 2015-16 school year ended with 3,514 students,” Cooper said. “As of September 15, the district’s student population is 3,654 students. Big Walnut’s enrollment is continuing to grow quickly, because people are moving to Delaware County more than any other county in the state, and our schools have a reputation of providing a great education.”
He said tracking escalating student population growth over the past decade provides an indication of future growth trends.
“Our growth in the five-year stretch from 2011 to 2015 was twice the growth of the previous five years, 2007 to 2011,” Cooper said. “Since the end of last school year, Big Walnut’s enrollment has grown by 140 students, and this school year’s average grade level size is 32 percent higher than last year’s graduating class.”
He also said Big Walnut has an excellent reputation for working with individuals with special needs, drawing residents to the area seeking services for their children.
“We take our responsibility to work with every student seriously,” Cooper said. “However, the reality is that many of these special needs come with legal requirements that often result in added personnel or other resources.”
Education is a service industry, and with student population growth comes increased staffing needs, Cooper said. The Big Walnut district currently has 220 teaching staff, 16 of those are new teaching positions added to the district to support growing class sizes and students with special needs.
Cooper said class sizes up through the eighth grade average 27 students; ninth grade and above the average class size is 28 students.
“Our buildings are quickly reaching their designed capacities,” Cooper said. “We’re making a strong effort to be cost-effective with our staffing levels, while maintaining appropriate class sizes for learning.”
Several other numbers in the FTE Report of note are: The Big Walnut Local School District has 144 Classified Staff (student aides, bus drivers, food service staff, custodians), 24 building and district administrators, and nine administrative support staff.
One final note: Last year Big Walnut High School graduated 211 seniors. This year’s fifth grade class has 310 students, currently the largest grade in the school district. Cooper said with people buying homes in the district as fast as they can be built, that class of 2024 will continue to grow.
Reporter Lenny C. Lepola can be reached at 614-266-6093.