(Lawrenceburg, Ind.) - In addition to better student test scores and a smooth start, there is one other thing school administrators like to see to begin the new school year.
That’s more students in the classroom than the year before.
Last Friday, September 14 was the first official enrollment count day of the school year for Indiana school districts. Count day – one of two to be done this year statewide with the second coming in February – matters deeply. The Indiana Department of Education funding formula for school districts relies heavily on enrollment.
Enrollment is up in a few local school districts, but down in others. Kindergarteners are counted as half-students in all Indiana school districts, meaning the actual head count is higher than the following numbers.
Lawrenceburg Community Schools Superintendent Karl Galey said his district is reporting enrollment of 1,849.5 students to the DOE, up 24 from last year.
Another growing district is Batesville, where a total of 2,158 students is an increase of 39 from a year ago.
At Switzerland County Community Schools, enrollment increased for the first time in several years, said Superintendent Mike Jones. 1,407 students counted Friday is up 55.5 students.
“We also have one of the largest kindergartens in our history with 144 students,” Jones said.
All other area school corporations saw their enrollment figures take a dive. Superintendents give varying reasons for the drop-off.
The biggest declines in enrollment were at South Ripley and Franklin County, which each have 78 fewer students than last year.
“Last spring we had projected a loss of about 87 students so we were close,” said Franklin County Community Schools Superintendent Debbie Howell. “What seems to be happening here in Franklin County is our ‘incoming’ class sizes are not nearly as large as our ‘outgoing’ classes. For example, last year we graduated our largest class ever at FCHS. This year’s incoming freshman class is one of our smallest classes.”
Howell said her district did see growth at Mt. Carmel School and Brookville Elementary.
First-year South Ripley Schools Superintendent Rob Moorhead blamed the economy.
“We have many students who are moving residences to school districts outside of our county. We feel this is representative of many families moving closer to their jobs in larger towns and cities with gas prices being nearly $4 a gallon,” Moorhead said.
Rising Sun-Ohio County Schools enrollment on count day was off by 16.5 students to 834 this year. Superintendent Steve Patz said enrollment has fluctuated year-to-year, but there’s been an overall decline for the past decade.
“There are several factors that contribute to this situation. However, the lack of industry in southeastern Indiana contributes greatly to the gradual decrease in enrollment,” Patz said. “One issue that our school system will need to watch for next year is the kindergarten enrollment. The kindergarten enrollment for this school year is extremely low. We hope to see a rebound in the 2013-2014 school year.”
Sunman-Dearborn Community Schools have seen enrollment dip by about 17 students, a drop in the bucket considering Friday’s count was 4,106.
In Milan, enrollment declined by 20 students to 1,147.
South Dearborn Community Schools Superintendent John Mehrle said Friday's count was 2,821. The number is down 32 from last year, but less drastic than the school corporation's loss of more than 100 students in 2010. Mehrle credited the decline to demographic shifting in the southeastern part of the state.