This week, I’d like to give an update on school district enrollment, something I haven’t done in two years. It’s been a little less frenetic this summer with fewer late registrations. At the beginning of summer I asked everyone’s help to encourage new parents to get their children registered early so if you did that, thank you!
To understand our current enrollment numbers, some background is necessary. In January or February of each year, we project the next year’s enrollment by advancing the numbers in each grade level and by inserting live birth data from five years previous to predict the kindergarten class enrollment. Even though we get new students every year, we also usually loose about the same number.
In 1994-1995, the district had 3005 students. In 2010 when I became superintendent, my study of our enrollment showed that enrollment had declined every year since 94-95 to reach 2148 in 2010-2011. Further inspection showed that enrollment would continue to decline until 2018-2019 as each graduating class was 20-30 students larger than the classes coming into kindergarten. State data shows that all school districts in the tri-county area have lost student enrollment since 2008 except one, Harbor Creek, which has shown a 1.6% increase. The highest percentage lost was 25% of the student body (Conneaut) with our loss over that time period being 4.2%. All districts but one (Fairview) have lost a higher percentage of students than GM.
In 2013-2014, we experienced our first year since 1994 that enrollment increased over the previous year.
That year, we ended up with 43 students more than the previous year which was significant given that we graduated 35 students in 12-13 more than the 13-14 kindergarten class (a swing of 78 students). In 2014-2015 and 2015-2016, our enrollment basically held steady when a decrease was again predicted.
In 2016-2017 (last year) we again experienced a small enrollment increase of 35 students over the previous year. This year (2017-2018), we have 25 students fewer than this time last year. Our total district enrollment as of September 11, 2017 is 2178. I think it is fair to say that based on the past five years, our enrollment seems to be stabilizing in the area of upper 2100’s, last year inching over the 2200 mark by 3.
A Lancer Letter from earlier this summer outlined the difficulties with predicting kindergarten enrollment based on five year old birth data. In that Lancer Letter, I asked if you wanted to make a prediction on kindergarten enrollment. We were wondering where McKean would end up as live birth data predicted 45 but pending enrollments indicated we would likely have 56. Final answer: 55!
I also mentioned in that Lancer Letter that we never varied more than 11 kindergarten students more than predicted by live birth records. This year we set a new record at Edinboro which received 15 more kindergarten students than indicated by live birth records. It put them at 81 students, one over our “ideal” number.
Edinboro was also the recipient of this year’s “unexpected spike” award. It seems that every year for unknown and unpredictable reasons, one grade level will end up with an inordinately high number of transfers. Last year it was the sixth grade and this year the third grade class at Edinboro has 27 more third graders than projected.
The Department of Education does annual enrollment projections for both the state and individual school districts. We have 70 students more this year than they predicted we would have. What is most interesting is that they are predicting the number of school age children to increase by over 1200 in the state over the next five years. We are projected for an increase of 133 students by 2026. This is somewhat of a concern as it appears that state funding will be shrinking over the next years and most of our extra space in the buildings has gone to the burgeoning special education population. More students to educate with less money and space to do it! Business as usual!
Projecting enrollment is tricky business but is important to help the district balance resources to continue to provide a quality education. We carefully watch elements that impact enrollment and growth in the community. We will never be 100% accurate on projections; but, they are still helpful, nonetheless.