As the Rio Rancho school district gets back into session next week, officials are already looking to the future.
The district’s middle and high school students return Wednesday, while elementary students Aug. 17.
Richard Bruce, chief operations officer, said after years of almost flat enrollment numbers, the district is anticipating a possible wave of new students. Enrollment numbers are not reflecting a huge enrollment bump yet, he said, but there are signs it’s on the way. Bruce said he has driven around the city and noticed more homes going up in the past few months and the district believes things might start picking up again soon.
At Ernest Stapleton Elementary, one of the district’s largest elementary schools, Principal Pat DiVasto said 953 students had registered as of Thursday. The school had 918 students at the end of the last school year. Stapleton is located off Broadmoor near Rio Rancho High and the Loma Colorado subdivision.
DiVasto said she is not surprised to see the increase.
“I knew that there was building going on in the area,” DiVasto said. “At the end of last school year, I was communicating with the developers of Loma Colorado and they told me they were building 135 new, big homes.”
DiVasto said third, fourth and fifth grade has the most students and that if things remain as is, they would have about 32 students per class.
However, Bruce said that the district does not allow classes at those grade levels to go above 26. DiVasto said she has put in a request for more teachers. District spokeswoman Beth Pendergrass said if class sizes are that big, the district will consider shifting teachers from other schools or hiring more teachers.
Pendergrass said the district will also be looking closely at the enrollment figures at the district’s other big elementary schools Maggie Cordova and Martin Luther King Jr. She said current enrollment numbers at each school will not be available until after school starts.
However, she said the district is expecting enrollment at Maggie Cordova to be in the mid-900s and the high-800s at MLK. The school board voted to close these schools. The vote prevents students who do not live within each school’s attendance boundaries to transfer into the schools.
Bruce said the district plans to build a new elementary but needs more funding to not only pay for construction but for operating costs and so the project is temporarily delayed.