School board pledge

From left, Oak Grove Central Elementary School fifth-grader Kyle Kicker and Hernando Middle School seventh-grader Brooke Kicker led the Aug. 15 DeSoto County School District Board of Education meeting in the Pledge of Allegiance. Students are routinely asked to lead the meeting in the pledge during the school year.

Early figures indicate another growing year for Mississippi’s largest public school district.

While the DeSoto County School District (DCS) is not required to issue its official student enrollment figures to the state Department of Education until Oct. 10, first week numbers rose by about 400 over the first week of classes last year.

DCS officials submitted its early enrollment figures during the most recent Board of Education meeting on Thursday, Aug. 15.

“We realize that the school district plays a role in the economic growth in the county, so we are encouraged that our enrollment numbers continue to increase,” said Supt. Cory Uselton in a news release.

The first week enrollment total in DCS, as of Wednesday, Aug. 14, was 34,556, which is 404 students more than last year’s first week figure of 34,152.

Six elementary and primary schools showed the largest increase in enrollment, led by DeSoto Central Primary and Olive Branch Elementary schools, each with a nine-percent hike in students over last year.

Pleasant Hill, Lewisburg Primary and Hernando Hills Elementary rose in attendance by seven percent and Chickasaw Elementary School grew by five percent over the first week of the last school year.

The number of kindergarteners in DCS schools rose from 2,338 last year to 2,417 this year. First grade totals grew to 2,522 from 2,470; and in second grade, district schools have 2,449 students over 2,355 in that grade last fall.

Uselton indicated that school numbers are always looked at closely, but especially so in the first month of the school year.

“We monitor enrollment numbers and real estate developments on a monthly basis throughout the school year,” said Uselton in a news release. “However, we monitor enrollment numbers on a daily basis during the month of August.”

Board members also reviewed upcoming construction projects to address the rising growth of the district at the recent meeting.

DCS plans to add 22 new classrooms for freshmen at DeSoto Central High School, eight classrooms at DeSoto Central Middle School and also at Hernando Middle School, and four additional classrooms at Hernando Hills Elementary School.

The DeSoto Central freshman addition, similar to what has been done for freshmen at Southaven High School, is projected to be complete in the fall of 2020, while the other projects should be done by the time school starts next August.

That is in addition to the recently announced plans for construction of a new Lewisburg Middle School with a tentative completion date of August 2021.

Past budget moves, including mechanisms such as certificates of participation, will allow for the projects to happen without raising additional taxes.

“We are excited that we will be able to address overcrowding issues in multiple school zones without raising taxes,” Uselton said. “Our school board is able to fund these projects without a tax increase because of conservative financial practices over the last several years.”

Bob Bakken is Managing Editor of the DeSoto Times-Tribune.

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