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More empty desks across the district

September 18, 2010
By BRIAN FERRY bferry@timesobserver.com
Once again, there are more empty desks in Warren County schools to start a year than there were the year before. Enrollment is down 184 students district-wide according to third-day statistics. That’s a drop of about 3.5 percent. The biggest losses by percentage took place at South Street Early Learning Center (12 percent); Russell Elementary School (8.5 percent); Sheffield Area Middle High School (7.9 percent); and Youngsville High School (6.7 percent). Three schools gained population — Sugar Grove Elementary (2.2 percent); Sheffield Elementary School (1.5 percent; and Warren Area Elementary Center (1.3 percent) — a total of 18 students. The district-wide loss of 184 is greater than the enrollment at either Sheffield Elementary (133) or Allegheny Valley Elementary (167). Over the past 10 years, the losses are consistent at the grade levels with elementary and secondary enrollment both down about 24 percent. From the third day of the 2001-2002 school year to the third day this year, the district went from a total enrollment of 6,500 to 4,959, leaving three students now for every four 10 years ago. Unless the pattern of 10 years of data takes a dramatic turn, the official enrollment taken Oct. 1 will be even lower. According to data from the 2001-2002 school year to present, the enrollment drops an average of 54 students annually between the third day stats and the official enrollment numbers taken on October 1 each year. Last year the drop was only 17 students from third day to Oct. 1 (the smallest change of the 10-year span), but the year before had the second highest loss at 75. The school district’s eight-year master facility plan includes keeping all four high schools open, reopening Pleasant Elementary School, closing South Street Early Learning Center, and filling Sheffield Area Middle High School with students from Allegheny Valley Elementary School and Sheffield Elementary School, which are to close. Eastern attendance area Sheffield Area Middle High School once had an enrollment of 617 students in grades 7 through 12. That’s about as many as the area’s K-12 enrollment this year. There are 349 students at the middle high school now. Sheffield Elementary has 133 and Allegheny Valley has 167, some of whom are central attendance area kindergarten students. Central attendance area The board approved a plan to close South Street and reopen Pleasant as a kindergarten and first grade center at a cost of $8.6 million. Since the move to full-day kindergarten for the 2007-2008 school year, the district has bused a portion of the central attendance kindergartners (and those first graders who opt for continuity) to Allegheny Valley every day. When that decision was made by the board four years ago, members at the time vowed to get those students back into the central attendance area in short order. South Street experienced its historic high enrollment (352) in 2005-2006 when all of the central attendance kindergartners and first graders were sent there. The school’s enrollment is down to 248 this year, but kindergarten students take up twice as many classrooms as they did in 2005-06 because of the change to full-day. The school remains one of the few in the district that is crowded and bringing back the students currently being bused to Allegheny Valley is not an option. The board considered adding to South Street or Warren Area Elementary Center (the other school that is close to full capacity) before opting for Pleasant. High schools As of the third day numbers, each of the district’s high schools is down more than 20 students from last year. There were fewer than 2,000 students in the district’s four high school buildings early this month. That 1,986 includes students in grades six, seven and eight at Sheffield and the seventh and eighth grades at Eisenhower. The total is almost a 25 percent drop from just 10 years ago when the enrollment at the four high schools was 2,629. Since the 1979-1980 school year, the peak enrollments at the four high schools was: 1,203 at Warren Area in 1986-1987; 816 at Eisenhower in 1997-1998; 741 at Youngsville in 1979-1980 (grades 7 through 12); and 617 at Sheffield in 1979-1980 (grades seven through 12). Taking the maximum enrollment at each school over the years, the high schools have shown a combined capacity of 3,377 students — 40 percent more than the current enrollment. Two out of every five desks that were in use at the high schools’ peak enrollments are now empty.
 
 

 

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