More students than ever will enter Cape Henlopen schools Sept. 2 as the new school year begins. Enrollment has increased at all schools, district officials say.
“It's the largest freshman class at Cape, ever,” said Superintendent Robert Fulton. “It's scary, but exciting scary.”
Cathy Petitgout, human resources director, said district enrollment increased by 60 students in the week preceding the first day of school Sept. 2. The district's total student population is 5,050 – 20 more than last year's Sept. 30 count of 5,030, the official date that enrollment is counted for state funding purposes.
At the high school, the incoming freshman class is 374, about 50 more than last year's incoming freshman class, Petitgout said.
Rehoboth Elementary School saw the largest uptick at the elementary level, with a total of 611 students compared to 594 last year. Numbers will fluctuate through Sept. 30 as officials determine which kids are not returning and new students enroll, Petitgout said.
At Rehoboth Elementary, Principal Trish Mumford said new students are coming from private and parochial schools and also from the Millsboro area or from out-of-state.
New students are filling mostly first-, fourth- and fifth-grade classes. “Seems to be at both ends,” Mumford said.
Along with more new students, Mumford said, she's thrilled that Rehoboth Elementary received a five-year 21st Century Fund grant bringing in an extra $265,000 a year for an afterschool program. Rehoboth Empowers Dreams is a partnership between the school and the Rehoboth Beach and Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce.
“We're trying to make a connection between what students are learning in school and real-life experience,” Mumford said. “We want to give them a reason why they have to learn fractions and read novels.”
Mumford said the program will expose students to different professions and businesses offered in the Cape Region. Local businesses will meet with students and tell them about specific skills each business looks for; the emphasis will be on showing students how they can take something they enjoy and turn it into a career, she said.
“There's a lot of enthusiam,” Mumford said about the upcoming partnership with the business community.
Probably the biggest change for students this year is the new Smarter Balanced state test and the return of a graded writing test, said Donna Kolakowski, supervisor of elementary instruction. Delaware's original state test, the Delaware State Testing Program, included a writing portion, which was discontinued when the state moved to the computerized Delaware Comprehensive Assessment System.
“We've put more of an emphasis on writing,” Kolakowski said.
To help students prepare for the new test, sixth- through 12-graders have new English language arts books aligned with the Common Core standards and unit tests given throughout the year will help prepare students for the state test, Kolakowski said.
Curriculum in the early grades has been aligned to Common Core standards as well, she said.
The Smarter Balanced test, however, is only for English language arts and math. She said DCAS will still be used to test students in science and social studies.
The district will continue to focus on improving test scores for students who failed to meet the standards and also on subgroups of students that may be struggling, Kolakowski said. Each year, the state and federal government analyzes test results for subgroups of students by race, socio-economic class and special needs.