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Student numbers rise in Tampa Bay area schools

Attendance is expected to continue climbing through the first week of classes.

Student enrollment in the Tampa Bay area’s fast growing school districts continued on pace from previous years, as children returned to classes Monday after their summer break.

Hillsborough County schools had 204,424 students show up for school Monday, an 8.5 percent jump over last year’s first day attendance of 188,350.

You should take that increase with a grain of salt because the 2018-19 school year started on a Friday, so more families might have stayed back.

But officials project a net growth of 15,000 students by the 20th day of school, when they do their count so they can finalize teacher assignments.

Interestingly, more than a third of the growth (6,962 students) was in charter schools. Right now 13 percent of Hillsborough’s public school students are in charters.

Pasco County schools started with 72,281 children. That’s up 1,162 from a year earlier, and close to what planners expected.

But the number also includes an asterisk. Officials said they think one high school that anticipated a 330-student jump had an error in its data, because it showed a 229-student decrease instead.

If the count is wrong as expected, the district’s enrollment growth would end up being even higher than projected for the year.

Unlike in past years, the majority of the growth did not come in charter schools, which still increased by 348 students. The largest rise came in middle schools, up 609 students.

Odessa Elementary had the single biggest jump, with 244 more students than they had on the first day of classes a year ago. (It was expected to see a rise of 108.)

Hernando County schools officials said enrollment was 23,485, but the district did not have reliable attendance statistics available.

Pinellas County schools do not begin until Wednesday.

Staff writer Jack Evans contributed.