School enrollment down 719 students

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Student numbers are on a downhill slide at all of the county’s high schools and most of its elementary schools, according to figures from the Fayette County School System. Fewer students mean fewer state dollars coming to an already cash-strapped system. There was a hope that the years-long trend of falling enrollment numbers in Fayette County public schools might begin to see a reversal when student population numbers were tallied during the first week of December.

But as it turns out the school system lost another 719 students between December 2010 and December 2011.

The biggest hit comes at the elementary and high school levels. Compared to the first week of December 2010, elementary schools have lost a total of 311 students while the county’s high schools have lost 307 students.

Fayette’s middle schools, while faring better, still have 101 fewer students than this time last year.

Those numbers reflect a total loss of 719 students since this time December 2010. The December figures put school system enrollment at 20,607 compared to the 21,326 students a year earlier.

Put in perspective, Fayette County schools have not seen so few students in a decade.

A look at the numbers show elementary schools at the beginning of December with a total of 8,324 students. That compares to 8,635 students for the same time last year.

Student enrollment at the county’s middle schools totaled 5,047 compared to the 5,148 students attending one year earlier.

And at Fayette’s high schools enrollment fell from 7,543 a year ago to 7,236 at the beginning of December.

A look at the decrease of 311 students in the county’s elementary schools shows that 14 of the county’s 17 schools lost enrollment over the past year.

Burch Elementary in unincorporated north Fayette was the big loser with a reduced enrollment of 67 student in one year, followed by Peeples Elementary just south of Peachtree City on Ga. Highway 74 that lost 49 students during the same period.

Cleveland Elementary, located just south of Ga. Highway 54 on Fayetteville’s west side lost 43 students. Braelinn Elementary on the south side of Peachtree City lost 38 students and Inman Elementary south of Fayetteville lost 31.

If there is a bright side to the story, it is that there were three elementary schools that gained enrollment over the past year. Those included Peachtree City Elementary at 24, North Fayette Elementary at 13 and Minter Elementary at 4.

A review of the county’s middle schools showed a decrease of 101 students during the one-year review period, with enrollment in December 2010 at 5,148 compared to 5,047 just a few weeks ago.

The most dramatic drop in enrollment came at Fayette Middle in Fayetteville where 69 fewer students are attending this year. And bucking the downward trend was Rising Starr Middle that gained 13 students.

And a review of Fayette high schools showed a decrease of 307 students this year over the same period last year. The December 2010 high school enrollment was 7,543 while the total number of high school students enrolled at the beginning of December was 7,236.

The numbers indicate that Whitewater High, Starr’s Mill High and Fayette County High each lost more than 70 students since last year. Only the alternative high school gained students during the period.

So what does it all mean? Money.

Each student generates approximately $4,000 per year from the state. And while there is a lag time to fully see the results, it goes without saying that the Fayette County School System’s near-term state revenues will see a decrease of more than $2.5 million unless the school system finds more students or comes up with other ways to increase revenues.

The school system was recently faced with having to trim approximately $10 from current expenses in order to present a balanced budget for adoption in June by the Fayette County Board of Education. The board earlier this month adopted the 2012-2013 school calendar that came with a cost savings of $3.3 million.