With schools opened this week or next in local school districts, the annual game of musical chairs begins.
Except in the education version of the game, the rules require adding more chairs for districts experiencing growth.
According to Tuesday's preliminary numbers, Davis School District will need 1,379 more chairs this year than it did last Oct. 1
"Davis is up to about 68,942 students this year," said Shauna Lund, a district spokeswoman. "In the four years I've been here, we are usually up at least 500 to 1,000 per year."
Davis County's population is still growing, and has space to build new homes. The Davis School District's year-round school system in selected schools is its way to address a fast-growing population without devoting a large portion of its budget to building more schools, Lund said.
Schools deal every year with new students moving into the district boundaries, as well as those moving out. Most families register their children by district deadlines, but each year, some students just show up on the first day. Districts do their best to plan, Lund said, but it's always hardest to predict the number of incoming kindergartners.
Lund said as of Tuesday, the district expected 37 more kindergarteners than it had last year. Sometimes the district is able to move teachers to schools where enrollment is higher than expected. Other times, the district taps into a pool of qualified teachers, ranging from recent graduates to experienced professionals, for its late-hiring needs.
Weber School District on Tuesday had 31,958 students, up from 31,587 the first day of last school year, an increase of 371 students. District spokesman Nate Taggart noted that official enrollment numbers are measured on Oct. 1, after the school population has stabilized. The Weber School District's enrollment number last Oct. 1 was 31,030, he said.
"We are typically up a couple hundred students a year," Taggart said. "Right now, it looks like we will be experiencing growth."
Weber School District also added a kindergarten session, at Harrisville's Majestic Elementary, and hired a new teacher for the position.
"We will be looking at final enrollment over the next couple weeks, and may be adjusting classes, in terms of adding new teachers," Taggart said.
Ogden School District preliminary numbers suggested a slight decline in students, although more meaningful numbers won't be available until the official enrollment recording date in October. Projected K-12 enrollment for this fall is 12,196 students, according to district figures. The Oct. 1, 2012, enrollment was 12,535 students. If the numbers hold, the Ogden School District will have a decline of 339 students.
But OSD Superintendent Brad Smith said enrollment typically increases by 300 to 600 students between the first day of school and Oct. 1. If that happens, Ogden could have an enrollment increase. Smith said the Ogden School District prefers to keep enrollment projection numbers conservative to avoid over-hiring and the need to lay teachers off.
"We have three elementary schools where they had 20 or more students that were not known or anticipated," Smith said. "With kindergartners, it's extremely difficult to anticipate who is going to show up. We do our best with kindergarten roundup, but it's a perennial issue."
Smith said it looks like 50 to 80 more kindergartners beyond those initially expected will be starting school in Ogden.
"It's a pretty big number, which is great. We have people coming to our district, and we are fully staffed and ready to handle it."
Smith said the district will wait until school starts to make final decisions about whether any extra kindergartners will be split among existing classes in their schools, or wether additional sessions will be added and staffed.
Box Elder School District is still seeing parents come in to register their students before the bell rings on Tuesday, said Terry Jackson, assistant superintendent. Last October, enrollment was 10,751, Jackson said. As currently projected, the district is expecting 96 additional students.
"We have a good handle on those students moving in," he said. "What we don't get is a good handle on those moving out. A lot of times, they don't come in to tell us they are leaving."
Kindergartners are also hard to predict, Jackson said.
"We won't know until the first week of school, and that's when we will increase or move staff. It's always a very complicated situation to predict."
Morgan School District Superintendent Doug Jacobs said his district is up about 100 students from this time last year, for a preliminary total of about 2,640 students districtwide. Jacobs said district officials have not needed to add or cancel kindergarten sessions. District enrollment remains pretty stable, he said.