For the first time in district history, Licking Heights Local Schools has topped more than 5,000 students.
As of Sept. 21, the Licking Heights had 5,155 students enrolled across its seven schools. At the end of the 2021-22 school year, the district had 4,957 students enrolled, according to data from Licking Heights.
The district's rapid growth from the last decade is continuing. Superintendent Kevin Miller said enrollment projections showed the district would have about 5,056 students for the 2022-23 school year. Meaning Licking Heights is about 100 students ahead of the projection.
Growth like this is only happening in a few other school districts across Ohio, Miller said.
"If you look at the last handful of years, we're among the top five, in general, as far as growth rate," he said. "Sometimes that's, you know, fourth highest, third highest but definitely among the top five."
Licking Heights is not yet the largest district in Licking County though. Newark City Schools still has the largest district-wide enrollment with about 6,000 students, according to the Ohio Department of Education 2021-22 school year report card.
Miller said the Franklin County portion of the district is driving the enrollment numbers because development is bringing more housing and apartments.
In the short term, reaching more than 5,000 students — and having about 100 more students than anticipated — is impacting the staffing of specific school buildings with the largest increases in enrollment. Miller said two teachers were hired over the summer for South Elementary, which has first through fourth graders, because enrollment numbers were getting higher for first and second grade. The district is currently in the process of hiring an additional science teacher for Central Intermediate because of the growth the district saw within fifth and sixth grades, Miller said.
South Elementary and Central Intermediate are the only buildings that are at capacity, Miller said.
"All other buildings are under capacity," he said. "However, we see that growth moving up toward our high school, which is why in a couple of years we'll be building additional classrooms onto that high school."
Miller said the district will graduate a little more than 300 students in the spring, but the kindergarten class is already 400 students.
"Ultimately, if you have every grade level that's 100 more than what we're seeing now, that's a growth of 1,200 kids," Miller said.
As part of the bond issue that voters passed in the spring, the district will add on additional high school classrooms in 2025 to accommodate another 300-350 students.
The bond issue is also paying for an additional elementary school that will be built just north of the high school on Summit Road. The new elementary is not replacing any district buildings and is strictly to handle further enrollment growth, Miller said. The school — scheduled to be open for the 2024-25 school year — will hold grades K-4 and have a capacity for 900 students.
Currently, all of Licking Heights' kindergarteners attend North Elementary. But once the new school is complete, Miller said, the district will restructure the buildings, so all elementary schools will be K-4.
Miller said work has not started yet specifically on the new school but mass excavation work has begun on the site, which will also be home to the athletic complex, bus transportation center and district administrative offices. The athletic complex and bus transportation center are first on the to-do list, Miller said. The design process is just beginning for the elementary.
The ever-increasing enrollment, Miller said, speaks highly of the district because it shows Licking Heights is a place people want their children to attend and to stay throughout their K-12 years.
"I think they see we've got a lot of programming in place pre-K through 12, that's really attractive to families," Miller said. "With about a third of our population of students coming from non-English speaking homes, I think it speaks highly to the diversity of the district and the fact that, you know, we're really meeting the needs of English language learners. I think that's something that's also attractive to many of our families."
This article originally appeared on Newark Advocate: Licking Heights enrollment reaches 5,000 students for first time