Hot Housing Market Could Be Reason Behind Sudden School Enrollment Increase
The last three weeks of summer, the Licking Heights School District in Pataskala got almost 300 new students.
"It was really the volume in the time period that caught us by surprise this year," said the district Superintendent Philip Wagner.
More than 50 of the new students were kindergartners.
There were plenty of first-graders, too.
At West Elementary alone, that meant quickly hiring a new kindergarten teacher and two new first grade teachers.
Wagner says the increase in students meant last-minute hires across the district in various grade levels, including middle school and high school.
He said they had to rearrange some classrooms.
"We actually passed our levy last May, and the board endorsed a plan to keep classrooms at the elementary level no more than 24, so we have honored that plan," Wagner said.
The surge in enrollment also meant dipping into funds for other expenses.
"That's buying additional furniture, it's other materials needed to support the class, textbooks," he said.
Seven additional bus drivers also were hired.
"When you infuse so many students into the system, we've had to reroute buses, and reroute buses, and reroute buses almost daily," he said.
But Licking Heights is not alone.
Bexley and Groveport-Madison also hired extra kindergarten teachers, as well. Wagner says realtors have told him the last-minute enrollment boost may be due to the hot housing market.
Monica Dunn, a realtor with Equity Central who sells homes in Pataskala, said the she thinks interest rates around 4 percent are contributing to the schools' unexpected enrollment increase.
"I'm dealing with a lot of first-time home buyers, including many young families," she said.
The most recent Central Ohio Housing Report from the Columbus Realtors came out in late August and featured home sales numbers for July.
It showed that 2,825 homes were sold, which was the third highest on record. The 3,515 additional homes that went into contract in July pointed to the trend continuing.
The August home sales numbers will come out on Sept. 19.
"Summer is traditionally a time when we see more families moving," said Chris Pedon, President of the Columbus Realtors.
"This summer, in particular, we've seen significantly higher numbers of home sales as most parents would prefer not to have their children transfer districts during the school year. Communities with homes in the more affordable prices range ($150,000 and below) attract more first time home buyers - often young families with young children - and are likely to see increases in the elementary school grade levels."
Other districts told 10TV News that they're seeing bigger enrollments, too.
Those districts included Pickerington, Reynoldsburg, South-Western, Westerville, Whitehall and Worthington.
Most of the other districts said their enrollments held steady or showed a minor drop.
Columbus City Schools refused to comment until after the official school count of students is done, early in October.
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