Enrollment in the Bozeman Public Schools has reached an all-time record high of 5,993 students.

The number of kids at all schools grew by 183 over last year. Bozeman’s total enrollment has grown by 900 students in the last 11 years.

Elementary school enrollment grew by 82 students in kindergarten to fifth grade, on top of 105 students last year. Several schools are more than full, the Bozeman School Board learned Monday night.

Bozeman’s seventh elementary school, Hyalite, opened in 2009 and is already full with 533 students, while Morning Star is up to 558 students, the most in the district.

“Elementary No. 8 is well underway and will come none too soon,” said Steve Johnson, deputy superintendent for operations. Bozeman voters approved in May a $20 million bond issue to build a new school on Durston Road, which is under construction.

Yet while elementary and middle school enrollment records were set, this year’s kindergarten class took a surprising dip, from 501 children last year to 458 this fall. That’s still the second largest kindergarten class in Bozeman’s history. But it’s 50 kids or 10 percent lower than expected.

“For the life of me, I can't see how that happened,” Johnson said.

It may mean that some families moved away, he said, after the recession hit in 2008. Private and home school enrollment only increased by 11 kids from last year, according to the Gallatin County superintendent of schools. Rural schools have gained a few students, but not enough to account for the disappearance of 50 kindergartners, Johnson said.

“I don’t know if it’s a trend or a blip,” he said.

The decrease in 5-year-olds this year could push back by a couple years the need to build a ninth elementary school and a third middle school, Johnson said.

At Bozeman High School, enrollment rose this fall to 1,909, which is up 65 from last year but isn’t a record.

The high school peaked in 2005 at 1,983 students, slipped downward for five years to 1,818, and has seen enrollment rise the last two years.

By the year 2020, the high school is projected to reach 2,400-students, the point at which the School Board expects a second high school will be needed.

For two decades, Johnson has been making enrollment predictions based on live births and family zip codes reported by the state Department of Health and Human Services.

Here are enrollment numbers by school as of the official Oct. 1 count. Large elementary schools: Emily Dickinson 500; Hyalite 533; and Morning Star 558. Small elementary schools: Hawthorne 332; Irving 280; Longfellow 323; and Whittier 275. Pre-k 32.

Middle schools: Chief Joseph 617; Sacajawea 634.

Bozeman High: 1,909.

In other action Monday, the School Board:

--Heard a request from Charles Woodgerd, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, which represents 65 school bus drivers and attendants, that when the five-year school bus contract goes out to bid this year, that companies be fully informed about drivers’ current pay. He said drivers don’t want to see some companies bid low, thinking they can pay less, which could result in a five-year pay freeze. Driver pay now ranges from $12 to $14.75 an hour.

--Honored teachers Kristy Michael and Rick Hannula and Longfellow School Principal Randy Walthall for their excellence in teaching and promoting the teaching of science. They received recognition from the Montana Science Teachers Association at the MEA-MFT Conference in Billings.

--Applauded Bozeman High School’s four state championship teams – both girls’ and boys’ cross country and soccer.

Gail Schontzler can be reached at gails@dailychronicle.com or 582-2633.


This story was changed on Nov. 13, 2012, to correct a quote from Steve Johnson. On kindergarten enrollment falling short of expectations, Johnson actually said, "For the life of me, I can't see how that happened."


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