Butler County’s largest school district is growing. What about others?

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

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Lakota Local Schools opened classes Aug. 16 with fun programs to greet the district's 16,500 students.

Credit: DaytonDailyNews

Southwest Ohio’s largest suburban school district is getting bigger.

Butler County’s Lakota schools is projected to add an estimated 365 students, or 2.2 percent, to its current 16,500 students by the start of the 2023-24 school year, according to a report recently presented to the Lakota Board of Education.

Among other large school systems in Butler and Warren counties, enrollment projections are mixed.

“We are excited for the growth in the area and the way Lakota is moving forward for our kids,” said Lakota Superintendent Matt Miller.

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“When planning for the future, we are always thoughtful and intentional. This new enrollment study helps us to do just that. It has been several years since our last one, so not only was it time for a new one, but the ultimate goal is to see how this will impact our facilities,” said Miller.

Lakota has Ohio’s eighth largest enrollment and trails only Cincinnati Public Schools as the most populous district in Southwest Ohio.

The current and projected enrollment total for the 23 schools of the Lakota district are still less than the district’s historical highest figure, which reached more than 18,000 about a decade ago.

According to a report from a demographic research contracted by the district, “the primary factors causing the district’s enrollment to increase over the next 10 years is the slowing in the increase in empty nest households and the relatively high number of elderly housing units turning over coupled with a sustained rate of in-migration of young families.”

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Demographic studies conducted by many area districts examine a wide-range of variables, including population projections, birth and death rates, housing markets, in-flowing and out-flowing migration of residents as well as the overall average age of school community residents.

Enrollment projections can be problematic due to unforeseen fluctuations in the regional, state and national economy that can in turn impact dozens of other factors.

Betsy Fuller, spokeswoman for Lakota, said the anticipated growth in students is already being accommodated.

“In addition to the growth occurring in our community, new programs were added at our schools this year, which are providing even more opportunities for our students such as all-day kindergarten, without a lottery and daily specials (music, art and gym) for grades K-6 at the early childhood and elementary schools,” she said.

Mason schools has Warren County’s largest student enrollment at 10,440 and is expected to level off for the foreseeable future and then decline slightly, said schools spokeswoman Tracey Carson.

Mason Schools saw a historic stretch of booming enrollment starting in 1995 that lasted 15 years, reaching during some years an increase of 600 new students each year. It was one of the fastest-growing districts in Ohio for that period.

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“Today, enrollment has stabilized. The district’s largest class, the Class of 2018, has 920 students, while there are 660 first graders,” said Carson, who added that Western Row Elementary will be closed at the end of this school year in part due to the anticipation of the coming enrollment decline dropping Mason below 10,000 students.

One of Butler County’s other larger districts, Fairfield, has seen a slight drop in enrollment from 10,022 students during the 2016-2017 school year to 9,919 this school year.

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Hamilton schools are also seeing fewer students recently, with 9,730 students in 2016-2017 and this year’s enrollment coming in at 9,536.

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But Middletown Schools, which is recent years has been among the lowest-ranked academically by the state’s annual report card, is showing a recent increase in enrollment, said school officials.

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Elizabeth Beadle, spokeswoman for Middletown Schools, said the district’s enrollment is now at 6,320 up from last year’s 6,137.

“The word is getting out Middletown is on the rise. The Middletown district is investing in its students and the community is taking note. Since we’ve opened the brand new middle school and modernized high school, we’ve seen a fairly significant rise in the amount of students registering to come to our schools,” Beadle said.

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