Tallahassee Reports recently published an analysis of Leon County High School enrollment numbers and growth rates over the last five-years. It was the first analysis published by a local media outlet aimed at providing information about the need and location of a new high school.
The report can be found here.
Current Superintendent Jackie Pons is supporting the construction of a new $50 million high school located in Southeast Leon county, just off of Tram Road. The project will require the approval of the Leon County school board.
Others, like School Board member Alva Striplin, have argued a different location makes sense.
This report looks at middle school enrollment and growth over the last five years in an effort to glean more information about the need and the possible location of a new high school.
The chart below provides enrollment numbers for eight Leon county middle schools. For each middle school the chart includes the geographic location, 2012 and 2016 enrollment numbers, and the change in enrollment
From the chart, we can see middle school enrollment is down over the last five years by just over 1% or 107 students.
If you compare 2016 enrollment of southside middle schools with northside schools – using Highway 90 as the divider for North and South – enrollment for southside middle schools totals 1,979 students while northside enrollment totals 4,234.
During the last five years, southside middle schools experienced a small decline in enrollment while growth in northside schools has remained flat.
If you divide Leon county into four quadrants, the 2015-16 middle school enrollment numbers for the schools are as follows:
Northeast – 2,821
Southeast – 1,537
Northwest – 1,413
Southwest – 442
The quadrant numbers show that approximately 34% of the middle students go to school in the Northeast.
What does this say about the need and the location of a new high school?
First, growth of middle school enrollment over the last five years does not show a need for a new high school. Absent some abnormal event, it appears growth in middle school enrollment will remain flat.
Second, student population in middle schools is the highest in the Northeast. This is consistent with the findings in our last report that found Chiles and Leon at or above capacity. Leon pulls from the Northeast.
The numbers indicate if a new high school is needed due to capacity issues, the new high school would need to be in the Northeast.
However, sources tell TR that a new high school is not as much about capacity issues as it is about replacing Rickards, which most agree is an aging school in need of major renovations.
But how will a $50 million investment in a high school miles away from the most populous section of Leon County help with overcrowding in the Northeast?
Are there solutions that can address both of these challenges: overcrowding in the Northeast and an aging high school in Rickards?
We will explore that question in our next report.