The space-crunched Riverside School District 96 happily opened its doors this week to a smaller student body than administrators predicted in the spring. But the enrollment numbers presented at the Aug. 21 school board meeting also show schools filled to capacity, with little room for further growth.

Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson presented the district’s current enrollment for the new school year at the board meeting. Total enrollment is 1,380 students, an increase of 2.6 percent from last year. Lamberson said he had been anticipating a 6-percent jump.

“We’re 70 students behind last year’s trend line,” he said, adding that this drops the district’s position along its 5-year enrollment projections from the high- to mid-range. Last year, the district had 1,345 students enrolled.

The last time the district had more students was the 1972-73 school year, when enrollment was 1,390. Lamberson said he expects modest increases in enrollment over the next three to four years. The district could easily top that 1972-73 mark with enrollment growth of just 1 percent next year.

The school district serves children from Riverside, the Hollywood section of Brookfield and North Riverside east of First Avenue.

The smaller surge may be good news, but Lamberson also noted the current study body has pushed most of the district’s four elementary schools to capacity. This is especially the case at Ames School in Riverside, whose 308 students make up the largest enrollment in recent history. At the meeting, the board voted to override the district’s class-size cap for one of Ames’ third-grade sections, allowing 21 instead of the normal 20 students in a classroom.

Ames Principal Colleen Lieggi said every classroom in the school was being used, and the schedule had been changed to accommodate three lunch periods for the students. In one effort to find more space, she said, a double classroom had been divided in half, creating a classroom without windows for one group of students.

“We’re trying to be positive and optimistic,” Lieggi said. “Everyone’s pulling together to make it work.”

District-wide, there is only one seat open in both the first and third grades. Lamberson said more class-size overrides would be necessary in these sections if more students moved into the district. This is the second year the district has faced a full first grade. Last year, seven overrides were required to fit students; administrators responded by adding a ninth section this year.

As for finding a solution to the enrollment problem, Lamberson said it would be one of the main district goals over the next year. In May, the district released a report from its Enrollment Solutions Study Group that identified five main options for handling further enrollment increases, which will be used to guide discussions on what action the district should take. At the meeting, board members also discussed recalculating the district’s enrollment projections, to get a better idea of how much space the district might need.

“We have to start talking about what the number could be, and what it should be given the current footprints of our buildings,” Lamberson said.