For the first time since 1972, when the morning bells ring at Alexandria public schools, there are more students filing through the doors than the previous year.

The official enrollment figures released yesterday show that as of Monday, 10,552 students had enrolled in the city's 15 schools, 239 more than last year.

Foreign-born students new to the area and students who switched from private schools are the main reason for the unexpected increase, school officials said.

School Superintendent Robert Peebles said he looks at the increased enrollent as a "vote of confidence" for Alexandria's elaborate attendance redistricting plan that ended cross-town busing between two pairs of schools. While he said that he did not view the end of busing as a major reason for the increase, he agreed that most parents are more receptive to neighborhood schools.

The largest number of new foreign-born students are Hispanics, mostly from Central American countries. As many as 150 more native Spanish-speaking students are studying in Alexandria this year, James Akin, executive assistant for research, planning and evaluation, said.

Exact figures for the number of students who switched from private schools to public are not yet available, but attendance clerks from each school estimate the number at 270, or 70 more than last year.