Saturday, August 23, 2014

Most Franklin County school districts post enrollment drops

By The Herald Staff | 9/27/2013

The halls are a little emptier this year at Ottawa schools — but not by much.

When enrollment counts were taken across the state Sept. 20, the Ottawa school district showed a drop in its overall head count of about 50 students district wide.

The halls are a little emptier this year at Ottawa schools — but not by much.

When enrollment counts were taken across the state Sept. 20, the Ottawa school district showed a drop in its overall head count of about 50 students district wide.

But the silver lining, school officials said, was the district’s full-time equivalent (FTE) count, which the state uses to help determine how much state aid the district will receive in the coming year, was only down about 10 students — and that number likely will change because the district’s enrollment at Future Visions Community Learning Center, a high school diploma completion program, had not yet been factored into the preliminary FTE count, Jeanne Stroh, superintendent of Ottawa schools, said.

The district’s preliminary FTE count for Future Visions is 15.9 and likely will increase because of the opportunity to add several more students to the program, Stroh said.

Ottawa’s head count was 2,474 Sept. 20, down 48 students from an enrollment of 2,522 last year.

Brian Kraus, assistant superintendent of Ottawa schools, told school board members Monday night the district’s FTE count at present is down nine students compared to last school year’s count of 2,415. The state’s base aid per pupil is $3,838.

A district’s FTE count usually is lower than its actual head count because the state counts kindergarten students as half-time students, and vocational students also are weighted differently than full-time students. Other weighted factors — such as students who qualify for free and reduced lunches and transportation — also affect the enrollment number the state Department of Education uses to determine a school district’s state aid.

On Sept. 20, Ottawa’s head count showed an enrollment of 35 youths in its pre-kindergarten program, 191 kindergartners, 190 first-graders, 223 second-graders, 173 third-graders, 198 fourth-graders and 187 fifth-graders for a total elementary school enrollment of 1,197. Eugene Field Elementary School reported an enrollment of 296 students, Garfield Elementary School, 395 students, and Lincoln Elementary School, 506 students.

Ottawa Middle School’s enrollment was 553 students, with 183 sixth-graders, 180 seventh-graders and 190 eighth-graders.

At Ottawa High School, enrollment stood at 698, with 188 ninth-graders, 174 10th-graders, 173 11th-graders and 148 12th-graders. The freshman through senior enrollment numbers do not add up to 698 because several students are counted into the high school’s total enrollment but are not listed by grade because they are enrolled in other programs.

Stroh stressed to board members Monday the Sept. 20 numbers were preliminary. The school district has until Oct. 4 to submit its enrollment numbers to the state, she said, and could see an increase in the number of students because of a few more moving into the district. A student has to attend classes for two full days between Sept. 20 and the Oct. 4 deadline in order to be counted, she said.

Central Heights

Many of the classes at Central Heights are holding more students this year, the pre-kindergarten program in particular, Jim White said.

Enrollment counts taken Sept. 20 showed an overall increase in students enrolled at Central Heights for the 2013-2014 school year, White, Central Heights superintendent, said.

“It’s pretty normal,” he said. “We’ve been concerned about kindergarten the past couple years because enrollment’s been down. Each year we’re in the mid- to upper-20s and we’d like to see that number be between 30 and 45, like the other classes.”

The preliminary head count for the total number of students enrolled district-wide was 587, up from 559 in 2012. The district’s preliminary full-time equivalent (FTE) number also was up, from 550.5 in 2012, to 552.5 this year.

The preschool program continues to grow with 29 pre-kindergarten students counted Sept. 20, up from last year’s count of 21. At the elementary school there were 28 kindergartners, 42 first-graders, 35 second-graders, 32 third-graders, 34 fourth-graders and 40 fifth-graders for a total of 240 students, up 17 from 2012.

At the middle school there were 44 sixth-graders, 44 seventh-graders and 53 eighth-graders for a total of 141 students, also up from last year’s count of 138.

Central Heights High School enrollment was 206 with 50 ninth-graders, 62 10th-graders, 57 11th-graders and 37 12th-graders.

Though the overall increase from last year’s numbers isn’t a large amount, White said, he’s happy the number didn’t decrease.

“If enrollment doesn’t go up quite a bit, we at least like to see it stay level,” he said. “Since we lost about 18 students last year, I was concerned it’d put a hole in our budget if we’d lost that many this year. We’re pleased we’ve been able to stay pretty flat.”

Wellsville

The Wellsville school district didn’t have massive losses in preliminary enrollment numbers from last year, but every loss counts, Jerry Henn, Wellsville superintendant, said. Wellsville’s total head count for Sept. 20 is 805, down from last year’s count of 816. The district’s full-time equivalent (FTE) count is down to 762, compared to last year’s count of 776.

“For a small school district, losing eight to nine kids is a lot of money,” Henn said. “Most of our loss came at the elementary school.”

The main reason for the slight decrease in numbers this year came from transfers out of the district, Henn said.

Wellsville Elementary had 17 pre-kindergartners, 69 kindergartners, 65 first-graders, 51 second-graders, 74 third-graders, 46 fourth-graders and 63 fifth-graders for a total of 385 students.

Wellsville Middle School had 75 sixth-graders, 67 seventh-graders and 62 eighth-graders for a total of 204.

Wellsville High School had 65 ninth-graders, 47 10th-graders, 56 11th-graders and 47 12th-graders for a total of 215.

West Franklin

Williamsburg Elementary took the biggest hit this year, losing 21 students, Dotson Bradbury said.

“Some of it is we just lost families,” Bradbury, West Franklin school district superintendent, said.

Preliminary head counts were taken Sept. 20. The total count for the district was 609, down from 630 in 2012.

Appanoose Elementary had 16 pre-kindergartners, 23 kindergartners, 29 first-graders, 19 second-graders, 27 third-graders, 28 fourth-graders and 31 fifth-graders.

Williamsburg Elementary recorded three pre-kindergartners, 15 kindergartners, 14 first-graders, 19 second-graders, 15 third-graders, 12 fourth-graders and 18 fifth-graders.

West Franklin Middle School had 56 sixth-graders, 41 seventh-graders and 49 eighth-graders. Currently, there is one sixth-grader at the West Franklin Learning Center. The Learning Center is a school for students who have different learning styles, Bradbury said. The total enrollment for the middle school was up this year to 146 from 2012’s 130.

West Franklin High School stayed exactly the same as last year with a total of 184 students, Bradbury said. There were 41 ninth-graders, 43 10th-graders, 54 11th-graders and 46 12th-graders. At the Learning Center, there was one 10th-grader, four 11th-graders and two 12th-graders.

The full-time equivalent (FTE) count was lower this year at 582.5, down from last year’s 597. The FTE count is what the state uses to help determine how much state aid the district will receive in the coming year.

The numbers are lower than what the district would like to see, Bradbury said, but the projections for enrollment are that the number of students will continue to decrease.

“We had an enrollment study done a year ago,” he said. “The projection was that we’d see classes in the 40- to 45-student range for a couple more years, then we’ll drop 10 to 12 students as those large high school classes graduate and we’ll probably settle in around 35 to 40 students per grade.”

Although the numbers are projected to continue to drop for the district, Bradbury said, according to the Department of Education, that’s normal.

“Rural schools continue to see declining enrollment,” he said. “About 60 percent of the school districts in the state are seeing declining enrollment.”

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