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School year opens with big bump in enrollment

Lenoir County Public Schools opened the new academic year with a significant boost in enrollment and the anticipation that 2022-2023 will be a more normal year, an outlook apparently shared by students and parents as restrictions built about Covid-19 concerns continue to ease.

Man stands in third-grade classroom with arms spread, talking to students.On the first day of this school year, Aug. 29, attendance at the district’s 17 schools totaled 407 more students than on the first day of school in August 2021.

At the end of this school year’s first week, on Sept. 2, student enrollment was up 134 compared to the same point a year ago – an increase of 1.6 percent – and student membership increased by 112 in the same comparison.

Enrollment counts the number of students registered to attend school in the district. Membership counts the number of students who are currently attending, typically a marginally smaller number.

On Day 5, LCPS counted 8,313 students in grades K-13 and pre-kindergarten, an increase of 1.89 percent over the previous year. That number continues to grow as the school year moves beyond Labor Day. Membership on Thursday, the year’s Day 8, totaled 8,377. The next day, membership was 8,402.

Nine of the 17 schools showed higher membership on Day 5 than on the same day last school year, with high schools showing the most significant increases. Kinston High School was up 78 students from a year ago; North Lenoir, up 31; and South Lenoir, up 23.

“We’ve had many returning from homeschool and several out of district coming to LCPS,” South Lenoir principal Elizabeth Pierce said. “I had two just this week from out of district come in to talk to me and they ended up loving what we offer so they enrolled.”

North Lenoir remains the district’s largest school with 975 students as of Thursday, but the attendance zone showing the most growth is the Kinston High track. Four of the five schools in Kinston showed membership gains on Day 5, with the largest increase aside from Kinston High at Rochelle Middle School, up 25.

Growing student numbers in the face of Lenoir County’s declining population encourages speculation that students are finding their way back to public school from alternate avenues of education sought during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

In welcoming the opening of the new school year, Superintendent Brent Williams termed this as “another year beyond Covid. We’re still in recovery with the pandemic,” he said, “but we’re excited about being this far past it and getting back to a more normal school year.”

Still, LCPS maintains a mitigation plan designed to keep Covid-19 out of the schools as much as possible. The district is continuing its rigorous sanitation schedule in buildings and buses and again this year is offering in-school Covid testing for students and staff who request it. Face coverings remain optional.

Schools and the district monitor Covid-19 cases daily and report district and by-school numbers each Monday at Through the first two weeks of the school year, cases have totaled a fraction of 1 percent of the on-campus population.

Photo caption:

LCPS Superintendent Brent Williams encourages student response during a classroom visit at Southwood Elementary School on the first day of the new school year, Aug. 29.