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HMS growth faster than expected

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HMS growth faster than expected

By the 2021 school year, HHS will be at overcapacity

When TJ Parks started anticipating student growth within Hobbs Municipal Schools, his anticipation was HMS would grow by 200 students a year.

The Hobbs Schools superintendent may have to up that number.

During his presentation at Tuesday’s Hobbs School Board meeting, HMS Asst. Superintendent of Data Analysis Rene Cantu announced the district’s enrollment increase on Dec. 1 — the 80th day of school — was 251 students.

“We are exceeding what we are projecting,” Parks said. “For the past nine years we have averaged 200 new kids per school year. We were at 7,900 students in 2008 and here we are at 10,250 in 2019. We will absolutely look at bumping up our student population increase. When we do our Kindergarten Roundup, that gives us really good figures. Because we already know who is here (kindergarten) through 11 (grade), so if we just move everyone up, when we get our Kindergarten Roundup numbers we can do a pretty good projection of what our overall numbers will be next year.”

The Full Time Equilvelant (FTE) enrollment numbers, which are used by the State of New Mexico to determine school funding — has Hobbs at 237.5 more students at this year’s 80th day than last year. To determine how much funding the school district will receive, state officials will average the enrollment count from the 80th and 120th days. Then using the funding formula from the state’s Public Education Department, a dollar amount will be determined.

“If we maintain that average when we do our 80- and 120-day, depending on the unit value (FTE) it’s going to be about another $1 million we will have because of the growth that we have experienced this school year,” Cantu reported.

Since the 80th day of school, district enrollment has increased. On Wednesday, the total enrollment for Hobbs Schools was 10,279.

“Looking at our current number comparing last year to this year, we are actually up 268 students,” Cantu said. “The majority of the growth is actually at Highland and Houston Middle Schools. Roughly 87 students at Highland and 88 at Houston. We are definitely still growing.”

Cantu said Heizer, the district’s only other middle school, has grown by 34 students. At the elementary level, Coronado, Sanger and Murray schools each have shown large student population growth.

“Growing pains,” remarked HMS School Board President Gary Eidson.

The growth of the school district hasn’t truly been felt as of yet. If the school district does not receive a single new student until the start of the 2021 school year, Parks said Hobbs High School will be busting at the seams. As of Wednesday, the total complement of students in the sixth, seventh, eighth and ninth grades totals 3,156. The current number of students between the 9th grade and senior class totals 2,617.

“In 2021, Hobbs High School is projected to be over capacity by 500 students,” Parks said. “That’s just moving kids up. That’s not moving new kids to the district, that’s just moving existing classes up.”

At 881 students, the current 6th grade class is the largest in the school district.

That’s why when looking at projected student population growth, Parks looks at two issues: school facilities and staffing.

“We need to make sure we have the appropriate space and teachers for kids coming in,” Parks said. “Really what we are seeing across the board is it’s not a one-time thing. We are seeing growth throughout the entire district.”

As for staffing, HMS is currently short 24 teachers. HMS Superintendent of Human Relations Will Hawkins confirmed the district is short 14 teachers at the elementary level and 10 teachers at the secondary level.

“We are going to have to have some real hard conversations for next year because we are short teachers now,” Parks said. “It doesn’t make sense for us to say we are going to increase the number of teachers, until we get completely staffed up now. We may have to have long-term substitute teachers, but we need to recruit heavily to fill our current vacancies, plus we are going to have retirements and departures.”

Trying to project future enrollment numbers is tough due to the number of variables in constant change. The oil and gas industry is topsy-turvy at best, although Parks said that downtowns tend to not be as extreme as Hobbs has seen in the past. And through data he’s received, Parks understands when a family purchases a home, their intent is to stay in Hobbs, if they aren’t already Hobbs residents.

“The building of new homes in Hobbs brings up a couple of questions in terms of our student projections,” Parks said. “Are these new families moving in? Are they people moving from one section of town to another?”

What is known is the 120th day of the school year is Feb.

13. By then Cantu and the rest of the school district will have a better idea as to how much additional money the school district will receive next year from the state’s funding formula.

Todd Bailey can be reached at editor@hobbsnews.com.

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