School enrollment numbers down

Published 7:34 pm Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Decatur County School System is down about 40 students compared to last year’s enrollment numbers, according to Superintendent Dr. Fred Rayfield.

That number, 5,378 students as of Sept. 8, is down from the projected 5,429 — 5,454 student enrollment that was discussed at the Aug. 21 Board of Education work session.

At that meeting, Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Dr. Linda Lumpkin said that she expected enrollment to increase between 75 — 100 student after Labor Day.

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“Two or three years ago, we had more than 24 students after Labor Day, but (this year) we’ve not seen a dramatic increase like we were anticipating — like I was anticipating,” Lumpkin said.

Rayfield said that the main impact of lower enrollment is financial because the state requires the system to track enrollment numbers for funding reasons such as providing monies for building projects. It also affects if the system hires new more teachers or considers downsizing a program.

“Another big reason is that for every one of those (students) we lose, we lose about $3,000 in state money. If we lose 20 students, we lose $60,000,” Rayfield said.

“I think it would take a tremendous drop in our numbers for us to get to (consider cutting programs),” Rayfield said. “At all of our schools right now, we’ve certainly got plenty of kids in our classrooms, so we’re not really on the threshold of that anywhere.”

Rayfield said that there are various reasons the numbers are down such as moves of migrant families and economic instability.

“I think it’s very much a community discussion that we should be having about making sure that we at least maintain our current level of student population if not try to grow it,” Rayfield said. “If we don’t continue to try to progressively get out there and bring some industry to town, I don’t see our numbers jumping dramatically. The state facilities report basically just says that we’re almost flatlining. We’re not growing by leaps and bounds, but we’re not dropping enough students every year to say that it’s having a significant impact.”

At the beginning of school years, the system works to make sure students from the previous year are enrolled.

“If they don’t show up from the previous year and we have not received the request for records, we do track those students if they’re ages 6 — 16,” Lumpkin said. “Then we will have social workers visit their previous residence and talk to neighbors if they’re no longer there, and we’ll try to contact schools to make sure those students are enrolled, so we make every effort to account for students that are considered no-shows.”