Sept. 2011 Column

    Welcome to Hobbs, America – the place to move when you need a job!
    
    It’s been nearly five years since Hobbs Municipal Schools contracted with Architect Research Consortium (ARC), a company that specializes in gathering demographic information to project population growth and patterns. In 2007, ARC provided the district with a five-year master plan which gives detailed information on the predicted future use of our school facilities, the maximum occupancy at all of our schools and prioritized building needs. Most importantly, ARC gave us predictions on expected population trends - data which the Facilities Assessment Community Team (FACT) relied on extensively in making its recommendation to ask for a bond election to finance the building of a new Freshman High School. A key component of the FACT team’s recommendation and the bond election itself involved transforming the junior high schools to a middle school system in order to move sixth-graders out of overcrowded elementary schools. 

    
ARC derived its population predictions using data from the Economic Development Corp. of Lea County, city birth rates, oil prices fluctuations and interviews with local businesses and employers. The study also used HMS student enrollment figures to project growth for Hobbs Municipal Schools.  After compiling the data, ARC developed three growth models (high, medium and low) for the ten-year period between 2007 and 2017. If the city had high growth, students a decade from now would number 10,496. If there was low growth, the number would be 8,381.
    
    
Similarly, the projected high growth for the current school year was 9,022 while low growth was set at 8,176. The most recent enrollment count showed that HMS students now number 8,683. That’s 289 students more than the same date last year. To put it more in perspective, the figure represents a 3.4 increase in enrollment and is the largest student population since 1985-86.

    
What ARC couldn’t predict when it compiled its statistics five years ago was an economic slowdown that resulted in record home foreclosures across the county and sustained high unemployment rates nationally. The result of those unfortunate circumstances can be seen every day in our administrative offices where families from all over the United States appear to register their students for school. 
    
    
Our increasing enrollment numbers validate the newly erected city population signs at the entrances into town. According to the most recent figures, the population in the Hobbs area is 43,305. But you don’t need a sign to tell you that Hobbs is growing. Just take a drive up or down Dal Paso or Turner around 5 p.m.

    
HMS had a very thoughtful plan for its anticipated growth when it held a bond election to finance construction of the Freshman High School and held a series of information sessions about the move to a middle-school system.  I’m not going to rehash last year’s state economic picture and the subsequent funding shortfall that forced us to delay opening Heizer  in August as a third middle school campus. Rest assured, however, that we have taken measures to ensure Heizer will open in 2012-13. This means that sixth-graders WILL move out of our crowded elementary schools and into one of three schools – Highland, Houston or Heizer – and each of those schools will instruct grades 6-8.  The district boundaries created last year will remain the boundaries for the three middle schools come August 2012. 

    
Thanks to advance planning based on the ARC information and the foresight of the FACT committee, Hobbs schools were prepared when the city entered the current population spurt. The growth confirms that the new Freshman High School was and is much needed.  Because the district is scheduled to contract for a new facility master plan at the end of our school year, we will continue to monitor our growth and make the necessary adjustments based on what has turned out to be accurate predictions.

      In the meantime, we are fortunate here in Hobbs to have a stable economic base and low unemployment rate. It’s our hope that our newest residents agree that this is a great place to live, work and educate their children.

 

 

 

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