The Bibb County school system has more students in its schools than this time last year, but its student count has fallen under 25,000, a milestone school officials said they had reached in recent weeks.
About three weeks ago, Bibb County school leaders said the number of enrolled students had exceeded 25,000 students. On Aug. 15, the third day of school for the 2012-13 academic year, 25,486 students were on the district’s rolls, according to online enrollment numbers the district provided to The Telegraph.
Within two weeks, though, Bibb County student enrollment had dropped by several hundred students.
On Aug. 28, there were 24,713 students in Bibb schools’ online enrollment system, compared to 24,622 students at this time last year. The nearly 100-student boost defies predictions by local officials of lower Bibb enrollment, as well as falling state enrollment numbers in recent years.
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The process of making sure students enrolled in Bibb County schools are actually attending classes is an “ongoing process,” schools spokesman Donald Porter said.
While new and transfer students have to register at the system’s Welcome Center, school-level staff have to check whether students on the books -- including those who were automatically registered based on enrollment last year -- have moved or dropped out of school, and then remove them if needed.
“You want to be sure the student count is accurate,” he said.
While the district’s latest numbers have dropped in recent weeks, Porter said the changes brought about by the Macon Miracle may have helped give the district’s enrollment number the year-to-year boost.
“Not being at 25,000 students is not necessarily bad,” he said. “We are adding students, which is moving closer to the goal. Anytime we’re doing that, it’s a positive.”
Meanwhile, student enrollment in neighboring Houston County has continued to climb, with about 27,560 students in the system on its 10th day of school, about 300 more than it had at the same time last year, said Stephen Thublin, assistant superintendent for finance and business operations.
However, both Porter and Thublin were quick to point out that the numbers released by their districts so far are preliminary. Rather, Bibb and Houston counties rely on the state’s student counts -- the first taking place in October -- for their official enrollment.
“When we report what enrollment is, we use the official (state) count,” Thublin said.
The Georgia Department of Education counts student enrollment at schools throughout the state every October and March to determine how much state funding they will get, as mandated by state law. State officials look at an average of the past three enrollment counts, said Levette Williams, state technology management director.
Schools receive different levels of funding based on grade and participation in programs such as gifted and special education, according to state rules.
Student counts in Bibb and Houston
School leaders have been talking about Bibb student enrollment reaching the 25,000 mark in recent weeks -- a number the district hasn’t reached since the state counted 25,109 Bibb students in October 2009.
During Bibb County schools’ Aug. 10 convocation, Superintendent Romain Dallemand said more than 100 students who had formerly attended private schools had enrolled in the district that week. Based on enrollment trends at the time, “it is possible that we will enroll 25,000 in our public schools,” he said.
As of Aug. 15, the system had an enrollment of 25,486 students, with 24,203 of those who had actually been in class, according to district data.
In budget discussions in recent months, school officials had predicted that Bibb enrollment would drop to 23,796 students.
Meanwhile, nearby Houston County has been gaining students every year over the past decade. While Bibb County was the district with the largest student enrollment in the region for years, Houston County surpassed Bibb’s schools-enrollment numbers in 2007.
On Aug. 14, the 10th day of school in Houston County, the system had 27,560 students, Thublin said. He projects that number will grow to 27,700 by October.
Houston County uses the 10-day number to determine teacher staffing based on student numbers. Because of a larger student body than anticipated, the system will shift a few teachers among grades or schools.
They also use that count to determine which schools can take new students under a state law that allows them to transfer to another school within a district if there is space.
Bibb County officials also plan to make staff adjustments based on a student count planned later this week. As student enrollment numbers stabilize, Porter said officials hope to get a “clearer picture of any potential staffing issues, based on the best information at the time.”
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.