LAND O'LAKES — Pasco County schools continue to show modest student growth this year, even as many Florida school districts struggle with declining enrollment.
The county's five charter schools are leading the way, with 259 more students attending on the fifth day of classes this year than a year ago. That increase makes up more than half of the district's total growth in attendance — up 481 students after five days — so far.
Early projections had Pasco's school population growing by about 300 children this year. The five-day count indicates that the expectations are not far off.
That's good news for the district, as it puts the finishing touches on its $1.16 billion budget for fiscal year 2009.
"It gives us some idea that we're in the ballpark and we're not going to have to scramble to hire more teachers right away, or say, 'Gee, we're going to have to cut some more out of the budget because we're way short,' " district planning director Chris Williams said.
That doesn't mean that some school officials aren't taking closer looks at their trends and preparing for changes. Because even though the district figures are up slightly, to 63,564 students attending as of Friday, not all schools are seeing positive trends.
Brand-new Anclote High School, for instance, sat at 866 students, more than 200 below its anticipated daily attendance. San Antonio Elementary School is another example. Its 627-student attendance is more than 120 short of expectations.
Several others have fallen short in early counts, including Cypress Elementary, Northwest Elementary and massive John Long Middle, which at 1,650 children was nearly 100 students shy of its projected enrollment.
On the other side of the equation, many schools already have surpassed their expectations.
Moon Lake Elementary, for example, had a projected average daily attendance of 544 this year. By the fifth day, 636 children were in desks there.
Land O'Lakes High had about 50 more students than projected.
The district won't take any immediate steps to move staff because of the Friday figures. Officials want to see if the trends continue.
After the 10th day, the district will remove students who never showed up from each school's official registration list. After 20 days, the district will take a more official count of students.
It's at that point that principals will determine whether any teacher changes are needed.
Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.