HMS day 1 enrollment tops 10K for first time since COVID
Enrollment in the Hobbs Municipal Schools is creeping back toward pre-COVID numbers, according to a report presented at the HMS Board of Education meeting Tuesday.
The first day of the 2023-24 school year last week saw 10,197 students pass through the doors of the district’s 19 attendance centers, according to the report. That marks an increase of 220 students compared to the first day of school last year, but it’s still more than 460 fewer students than the first day of the 2019-20 school year, before the COVID-19 pandemic.
Second-day numbers declined by 306 students this year, Superintendent Gene Strickland told the board Tuesday. But by last Friday, enrollment had again topped the 10,000 mark, and continued to increase through Tuesday, the last day counts were available, he said.
“The second day (of the school year), we had some purging of enrollments,” Strickland said. “We had some students who had to complete some information, so you see a reduction. They got their paperwork done so on the third day of school most of them were ready to come back.”
Enrollment on day three of the school year reached 10,073, increasing to 10,132 by Monday of this week and 10,153 as of Tuesday, the fifth day of the year. That marks an increase of 190 students over enrollment on the fifth day of the ’22-’23 school year. And, according to the daily HMS enrollment report online, there were 10,159 students in the district as of Wednesday.
There were 3,072 students attending Hobbs High School and Hobbs Freshman High School on Wednesday, according to the daily report, and 2,247 students in the district’s three middle schools. Elementary enrollment as of Wednesday totaled 4,750.
“I look at this (report) every morning,” Strickland said. “It provides a breakdown by grade level and campus.”
Student population in HMS has been climbing steadily, year to year, since the 2020-21 school year — the first full year during the pandemic — when day one enrollment totaled 9,657, according to the report.
And the numbers are important beyond being an indicator of a return to normalcy in the district, he said, as the district prepares for major projects at the middle schools including the planned construction of a fourth campus, and more. Strickland told the board he will be in Santa Fe on Monday to plead the district’s case for funding from the state’s Public School Capital Outlay Council.
“Pre-COVID, we had conversations about what to do with our middle schools,” Strickland said. “Beyond COVID, the timing is right so we don’t end up with 950-plus kids like in March 2020 previous to COVID at Highland (Middle School) and 650-plus at Heizer (Middle School).”
In July, the board approved placing a $50 million bond issue before voters during the Nov. 7 general election. Addressing population issues at the three campuses “has been in … process for a number of years,” Strickland told the board at the time.
The district’s Facilities Assessment Community Team (FACT) went to work last fall, looking seriously at overcrowded conditions at Heizer, Highland and Houston middle schools in Hobbs. Through a series of meetings over the intervening months, the group determined the solution is to build a fourth middle school at a site yet to be determined and replace the current Heizer Middle School, Strickland told the board in July.
This first round of funding from the Capital Outlay Council would go toward design of a new middle school at a yet to be determined location in the district, and for new construction to replace Heizer Middle School on East Stanolind Road.
It’s important to keep the middle school projects rolling now, Strickland said, given current enrollment in second, third and fourth grades in the district. With 2,264 students in those three grades, that marks an increase of 21 students even without an overall enrollment increase who’ll be attempting to crowd in to already crowded middle schools in a few year. Add to that this year’s fifth grade class totaling 798 students — the first class projected to be enrolled at a new middle school campus when it’s completed — the need for increased capacity is evident, Strickland said.
The request for funding has already passed the PSCOC subcommittee and will be before the full body Monday when Strickland travels to Santa Fe to present information, including verification of middle school capacity reports already submitted, he said.