JACKSON, Wyo. — Enrollment at local schools is mostly on the rise as the 2020-21 academic year begins.
Some speculate the rising numbers are the result of upwardly and laterally mobile families choosing Teton County as the safer of multiple living options during a time of COVID. Others say it is merely a reflection of a county that continues to grow as the 2020 Census may bear out.
At the public schools, Teton County School District communications director Charlotte Reynolds said preliminary high school enrollment numbers show a net gain of 25 students. As of August 24, 117 new students registered for high school.
“These represented families that moved to the community or who were previously attending an independent school,” Reynolds said. “We also saw a reduction of 92 students who were attending last June. They have left for either home schooling or transferred to independent schools.”
While the numbers do not seem particularly large, Reynold’s said they were higher than the statistical five-year average.
The high school will have 71 new students this year that did not attend last year. The incoming freshman class totals 234 students. That compares with last year’s 9th grade enrollment which was 199.
All the elementary schools in the district saw a decrease in enrollment with the exception of Wilson Elementary which increased its student body.
Reynolds added current infrastructure and faculty will be able to handle the increase in students but expansion to accommodate a growing community is not far off.
Private schools are also seeing a boost in attendance.
Mountain Academy (formerly Teton Science Schools) are up a bit according to John Morgan, director of enrollment management. Opening day for Mountain Academy was Monday at both its Jackson and Teton Valley campuses.
A total of 265 students are enrolled—169 in Jackson, 96 in Teton Valley. That’s up slightly from 2019-20 when 252 showed up for school on opening day.
“We had a busy summer for sure with inquiries,” Morgan said.
The school is returning to predominately in-class instruction with the option to participate remotely in real-time for students or families uncomfortable with retuning to their desks.
“Max class size has been adjusted. All students and faculty will be wearing masks,” Morgan said, of the precautions taken.
Also, each class (or grade pairings) will have their own stable footprint. Grades K-1, 2-3, 4-5, etcetera, will each have their own bathroom, mudroom, and other amenities so that they do not have to come into contact with any other grade.
At Jackson Hole Classical Academy there was an excitement from the student body about getting back to readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rithmetic.
“Families are being thoughtful to decide what is best for their children during this unique time. Therefore, we’ve inherited many families that prioritized in-person learning with our classical curriculum and lost some who need to learn at home for various reasons,” said Head of School Polly Friess. “Due to distance learning this Spring, there was extra enthusiasm this morning for seeing their friends and meeting new teachers.”
She added that JHCA has seen evidence of families moving to the valley specifically so their kids can attend class in a brick-and-mortar school. Interest in enrollment has been high, according to school reps, and the 6th grade class, in particular, has a waiting list.
As far as measures being taken to prevent the spread of the virus, Friess says the roomy school lends itself naturally to ‘social distancing.’ Plus, they are taking all precautions.
“Our small class sizes and large campus are great assets in enabling our school community to practice social distancing. This fall we are increasing our cleaning procedures, encouraging frequent handwashing and wearing masks when 6 feet of space cannot be maintained,” Friess said.
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