Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV


August 31, 2012

A great start — Enrollment a positive for Mercer schools

he new 2012-2013 school year is off to a promising start for Mercer County Schools. Pre-Labor Day enrollment estimates show an increase of about 100 students, and participation in the new free lunch and breakfast program has already exceeded expectations.

Although final enrollment estimates won’t be available until after Labor Day, school administrators counted 8,795 students this week. That’s up from 8,698 students in the spring. The increase in student enrollment is a positive development, and ends a long pattern of student enrollment losses for the school system.

The increase is particularly impressive given the tough economic times as of late.

And although school is not yet in session at the Princeton and Bluefield Early Learning Centers, the anticipated enrollment of 380 pre-school students at the facilities will easily boost the county enrollment total past the 9,000 mark, according to Kellen Sarles, a public information specialist for the Mercer County Board of Education.

Sarles is also predicting an additional increase in student enrollment after Labor Day.

“Despite a fairly late-August start of school, there are still families on vacation and students who don’t make it to school until after the Labor Day weekend,” Sarles said earlier this week.

Twelve schools saw a higher first-day enrollment. Spanishburg reported an increase of 37 students, Whitethorn added 16, Melrose grew by 36, and Princeton Senior High School gained 73.

Also impressive is the number of students in Mercer County who have taken advantage of the new free universal meals program. As part of the pilot initiative, all students are now eligible for a free breakfast and lunch regardless of income guidelines.

The universal meals program was designed to offer a free school breakfast and lunch through the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. School systems are eligible for the program if they have at least 40 percent of their students eligible for free and reduced lunch.

The campaign appears to be off to a great start in local schools.

Teachers and principals in schools across Mercer County reported a welcomed increase this week in the number of students enjoying a free breakfast and lunch. That’s great news to hear. Those students who enjoy a healthy breakfast and lunch are more likely to learn, and are less likely to be distracted or inattentive in the classroom.

No child should be expected to go to school hungry, or without proper nutrition.

We congratulate the school system on its welcomed enrollment increase, and the success of the new universal meals program. This is a great way to start the new school year.

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