Education

School enrollment tallies up slightly across state, varied in area

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Public school enrollment across the state is up slightly since last year, and educators say those figures make all the difference when it comes to funding.

Total student enrollment went from 1.757 million in October 2015 to 1.764 million now, according to the Full-Time Equivalent report released by the Georgia Department of Education late last week. The report shows the number of students in each district and school and breaks down the race and gender representation.

“We’re funded based on our full-time FTE count,” said Tony Jones, the Bibb County school system’s director of research, evaluation, assessment and accountability. “You want to know how many students are in your district. We don’t just use it for funding. We use it for everything from classroom allocation to teachers to space to building usage.”

The Georgia tally in spring 2016 was a little less than 1.75 million students. However, it’s not unusual for enrollment to drop a little from fall to spring, due to student relocations and other family circumstances, Monroe County Superintendent Mike Hickman said. For that reason, counties may look at their figures from fall to fall and spring to spring.

Districts can compare themselves with other similar districts and assess how they can better maximize their programs and facilities, he said. The enrollment data is also useful as districts start working toward new budgets, Houston County school Superintendent Mark Scott said.

Bibb County enrollment has decreased some since 2015, with 24,421 students reported last October, 24,206 in March and 23,949 now. Houston County, on the other hand, went up from 28,502 to 28,578 to 29,003. The district has grown by more than 3,800 students over the past 10 years, and the numbers this year were in line with what officials expected, Scott said.

“We’re continuing to grow, and we attribute a lot of our growth to our success in the school district,” he said. “We live in a community that supports public education.”

Enrollment has been level in Monroe since 2008, but the district is up 45 students since last October, Hickman said. The increase could be a sign of growth in the county.

“We’ve upped our numbers, which is a good thing. I think it has to do with the education that our kids are getting in (Monroe) county. We’re also seeing an uptick of houses being built in the county,” he said.

Additional space and teachers have to be added as the student population increases, which can bring both challenges and opportunity, Scott said. Schools get additional state funding for extra pupils, but those dollars aren’t immediate.

To meet their growing needs, Houston has included plans for a new elementary school and an addition to Veterans High School in its 2017-2022 education sales tax proposal, but those projects won’t start until later in that time frame.

While most area public school systems saw gains, many of the area’s largest private schools showed fewer students than a year ago, according to the Georgia Department of Education’s 2015-16 Private School Annual Survey.

In Bibb County, Stratford Academy was down 55 students, with an 869 total; First Presbyterian Day School was down 51 to 899; Mount de Sales Academy down four to 589; Covenant Academy down 23 to 355; St. Joseph Catholic School was down 22 to 252; and Windsor Academy was down six to 205.

The Westfield School in Houston County also saw a decrease in reported enrollment, with 22 fewer students and 474 total this year.

On the other hand, the student population at Tattnall Square Academy and Central Fellowship Christian Academy in Macon increased, with 13 more students for a total of 457 at the former and 25 more students for 275 total at the latter.

Andrea Honaker: 478-744-4382, @TelegraphAndrea

View the reports

See the full public schools report at www.bit.ly/2fLFKSj. Click on report date and then county.

See the 2014-15 private school report at www.bit.ly/2fjcfDy.

See the 2015-16 private school report at www.bit.ly/2fLFV00.

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