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LPS enrollment — though less than anticipated — tops 42,000 students
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LPS enrollment — though less than anticipated — tops 42,000 students

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The number of students walking the halls of Lincoln’s public schools topped 42,000 for the first time this fall, though the growth is smaller than it has been in recent years.

The 42,035 students counted Monday — a number that will be reported to the Nebraska Department of Education as the official enrollment for 2018-19 — include more than 1,700 preschool students, the majority of which attend elementary schools.

Five of the six high schools have more than 2,000 students this year, three elementary schools have more than 800 and one middle school topped 1,000 again this year. 

“The enrollment growth this year is part of a long-term story of really long-term growth that stretches back a decade or more,” said Matt Larson, LPS interim assistant to the superintendent. 

In other words, don’t read too much into the 275 additional students this year — less than the 500 district officials had estimated and substantially less than the extraordinary growth in the past several years. 

LPS enrollment

More important will be long-term trends, Larson said. 

In recent years, those trends have been spiking upward fairly dramatically. LPS has grown by more than 800 students each year in recent years — nearly 3,000 students in the past five years and more than 8,000 — or 24 percent — in the last decade.

The growth is most noticeable this year in high schools, as a “bubble” of students that stressed middle schools a few years ago has grown older. 

The most students in any grade this year are seniors — 3,276 of them. East High, traditionally one of the smallest high schools, has more than 2,200 kids this year.

Lincoln High is the biggest of the high schools, with 2,304 students.

Fortunately, the teaching staff has grown along with enrollment, said Principal Mark Larson, but physical space is a different issue.

Few teachers have their own room anymore and many load up their classrooms on a cart to move from room to room. Computer labs have been converted to planning space for teachers and there's an additional lunch period this year.

In recent years, about 40 percent of Lincoln High's students optioned in from other attendance areas in the district, Larson said. The school sits in the middle of the city, where little new development happens.

Part of the draw may be the International Baccalaureate program located there, or the proximity to two of the district’s focus programs. Lincoln High also has the largest English language learner program of the three high schools that offer it.

But Larson said it also means students and families want to come there.

“So we’ll take all the logistical stuff we have to work through, because I think that means the community thinks we’re doing something right.”

Unlike high schools, enrollment at the middle school level is down by about 250 students. Moore Middle School, which opened last year near 84th Street and Yankee Hill Road, is the only middle school that's grown — by 172 students. 

Scott Middle School in southwest Lincoln remains the largest middle school with 1,104 students, though it's down slightly from last year.

Part of the lower middle school enrollment could be this year’s sixth-grade class, which is smaller because of a change in kindergarten enrollment policies when they started school, the district's Matt Larson said.

Overall, elementary school enrollment grew to 20,498, though enrollment dipped slightly at more schools than it increased.

Roper Elementary, in west Lincoln, remains the largest elementary school with 879 students. Kooser and Adams — in northwest and southwest Lincoln, respectively — both have enrollments of more than 800 students.

And Larson said high school enrollment is projected to continue increasing over the next decade.

Those projections have prompted discussions about where a new high school should be built, and staff has recommended adding four elementary schools and two middle schools in addition to a high school in future years.

“What I see here is continued, healthy growth, growth across the community," Larson said.

2018 2017 2016
HIGH SCHOOLS
East 2,218 2,037 1,892
Lincoln High 2,304 2,187 2,036
North Star 2,202 2,152 2,191
Northeast 1,758 1,718 1,611
Southeast 2,054 2,089 2,060
Southwest 2,006 1,953 1,887
Total 12,542 12,136 11,677
MIDDLE SCHOOLS
Culler 666 765 730
Dawes 473 508 496
Goodrich 850 866 841
Irving 812 840 844
Lefler 591 624 633
Lux 841 919 1,053
Mickle 700 727 726
Moore 480 308
Park 854 857 892
Pound 762 816 877
Schoo 862 864 835
Scott 1,104 1,144 1,124
Total 8,995 9,238 9,051
ELEMENTARIES
Adams 812 825 825
Arnold 738 758 769
Beattie 376 354 356
Belmont 793 746 763
Brownell 337 319 324
Calvert 370 395 402
Campbell 667 678 677
Cavett 680 692 683
Clinton 477 496 506
Eastridge 312 319 325
Elliott 393 385 394
Everett 444 463 485
Fredstrom 495 471 487
Hartley 402 384 397
Hill 549 562 559
Holmes 401 415 375
Humann 499 500 469
Huntington 495 489 479
Kahoa 570 593 602
Kloefkorn 486 501 499
Kooser 831 809 777
Lakeview 427 412 424
Maxey 674 672 648
McPhee 296 307 296
Meadow Lane 611 593 581
Morley 505 520 567
Norwood Park 271 270 247
Pershing 463 465 474
Prescott 535 522 563
Pyrtle 443 436 428
Randolph 501 462 462
Riley 323 337 358
Roper 879 894 855
Rousseau 594 582 580
Saratoga 265 275 281
Sheridan 458 478 484
West Lincoln 512 522 487
Wysong 494 435 324
Zeman 412 425 409
Other preschool 708 625 586
Total 20,498 20,386 20,207
ENROLLMENT 42,035 41,760 40,935

Reach the writer at 402-473-7226 or mreist@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LJSreist.

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Local government reporter

Margaret Reist is a Lincoln native, the mom of three high school graduates now navigating college and an education junkie who covers students, teachers and policymakers inside and outside the K-12 classroom.

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