Enrollment in the Bozeman Public Schools has grown to a record 5,810 students, and if the current growth rate continues, Bozeman will need to build a new elementary school, new middle school and new high school in the next decade.
"We're running out of room," especially in the elementary grades, School Board Chair Denise Hayman said Monday.
Superintendent Kirk Miller said the board's facilities committee would probably come back at the December meeting with recommendations on how to cope with the growing number of students.
The elementary schools are full. This year's elementary enrollment of 2,751 in preschool through grade five is an all-time record. That's up by 105 students from last year and up nearly 400 students from four years ago.
Bozeman's newest elementary school, Hyalite, which opened in fall 2009, already has 480 students, 38 more than its official capacity.
The elementary schools have room for 13 more students, yet enrollment is predicted to grow by another 120 next year, said Steve Johnson, assistant superintendent for business. He bases projections on the number of babies born in Bozeman and the average numbers of students who continue from year to year.
Middle school enrollment this year matched last year's record of 1,215.
At Bozeman High School, this is the first year since 2006 that enrollment has increased instead of slipping. The high school has 1,844 students, up 26 from last year.
At this rate, Bozeman High is expected by the year 2020 to reach its capacity of 2,400 students, the level that would trigger the need to build a second high school.
The growth trend appears to be on track to continue. This year's kindergarten class is the first in the district's history to exceed 500 children. Kindergarten enrollment is projected to continue to grow.
"We need to build another elementary, middle school and high school in the next nine years," Trustee Ed Churchill said, after looking at the projections.
"We have always been very cautious and not recommended building anything until the (student) numbers are there," Johnson said. "They come and then we build it."
It would take a couple years to build an eighth elementary school. In the meantime, young students may have to be placed in the middle schools, which aren't yet full, Johnson said.
This fall's student count at the elementary schools is Morning Star, 58; Emily Dickinson, 521; Hyalite, 480; Hawthorne, 324; Longfellow, 321; Irving, 289; and Whittier, 268. At the middle schools, enrollment is 620 at Sacajawea and 595 at Chief Joseph Middle School.