Ocean Springs School District Expects Record Enrollment

The Ocean Springs school district expects a record enrollment of more than five thousand students this fall.

That projection has school leaders looking at ways to avoid overcrowded classrooms. There are several alternatives being considered, including a plan to realign the elementary schools by assigning specific grade levels to each school.

The final plan will likely include a combination of ideas.

Plenty of new homes are under construction in Gulf Park Estates. New families who move into the houses send their kids to Ocean Springs schools.

"We're projecting right at five thousand for the start of school and so we can probably anticipate another 100 or 150 by the time the summer is over and we have the new enrollments come in as families move into the area," said school superintendent, Anna Hurt.

With schools like Magnolia Park Elementary already at capacity, school leaders must find ways of stretching available classroom space.

"Just simply adding some portables at the school sites. We looked at just adding classrooms. We talked about redrawing the boundaries between our schools. And then of course talking about a more efficient way of perhaps organizing the school by the realignment," said the superintendent.

It's that talk of realignment that concerns parents. Kelly Rhodes moved her family here for the quality schools. She lives in one of the newest neighborhoods in east Ocean Springs.

"I don't think it's good if you have two or three kids that are going to school. Then you lose the parental support. You can't be 100 percent at three schools," said Rhodes.

The Ocean Springs school district faced similar concerns about crowded classrooms less than ten years ago. In August of 1994, 81 percent of voters here approved a nearly ten million dollar bond issue to build the new middle school and pay for other school additions.

Plans to accommodate the current growth will eventually include new school construction. But the district can't go for another bond issue until 2007.

"We still have a lot of input. Time to ask parents in the community, work with staff and seeing if there are any other options that perhaps we haven't discovered," said Superintendent Hurt.

More new houses means the possibility of crowded classrooms will be an ongoing challenge.

Superintendent Hurt says the school district wants input from parents about the alternatives being considered. She's meeting with school principals this Friday to discuss a series of public meetings.