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Fayette schools' enrollment keeps heading down

The Fayette County School System, which a decade ago could not build schools fast enough for the exploding population, reports it has lost nearly the equivalent of a full elementary school enrollment so far this year.

The system reports it has 481 fewer students this year than the same time last year. The biggest declines came in the elementary and high school grades.

It is a trend that began by mid-decade and one that is continuing today. The brand-new $10 million Rivers Elementary School — built to serve 600 students — on Sandy Creek Road has an enrollment of fewer than 100 special education students.

Figures provided by the school system showed that total enrollment as of early October was 21,426 compared to 21,907 students at the same time last year, a difference of 481 fewer students. The decline in school enrollment put the student population at about what it was in 2005 when enrollment was 21,531.

School system spokesperson Melinda Berry-Dreisbach accounted for at least a portion of the declining population.

“Our economy is still struggling. Locally, as well as nationally, families have faced foreclosures, lost their homes and have moved to other areas to live with family, or to counties with more affordable housing,” Berry-Dreisbach said Monday.

“Home sales are flat, so we don’t have children moving in to replace those who either move out or graduate. Also, some of the change may be attributed to our aggressive approach over the last several years to withdraw students who do not meet residency requirements,” she said.

In terms of the loss of 481 students, the big hits in the decrease in enrollment came in the elementary and high schools grades. The county’s high schools saw a decrease of 198 students this year along with 211 fewer students in elementary schools and a decrease of 72 students in middle schools.

Total high school enrollment in early October was 7,619 compared to 7,817 a year ago, representing a decrease of 198 students. Only Starr’s Mill and the Open Campus high school showed gains over last year, with Starr’s Mill adding 34 students and the Open Campus school adding 12.

The high schools showing a loss of student enrollment over last year included Fayette County High at 51, McIntosh High at 13, Sandy Creek High at 88, Whitewater at 126 and the Alternative High School at seven.

Decreasing enrollment is also a fact of life at the county’s public elementary schools where the student population in early October was 8,644. That compares to 8,855 elementary students a year ago, a decrease of 211 students.

A survey of individual elementary schools showed that six schools gained students and 11 schools lost students.

Those increasing enrollment included Tyrone Elementary with 15 students, Peachtree City Elementary with 12, Oak Grove Elementary with 23, Kedron Elementary with 11, Cleveland Elementary with five and Brooks Elementary with one more student.

The elementary schools showing a loss in student population over last year included Braelinn Elementary with 39 fewer students, Burch Elementary with 55, Crabapple Elementary with 14, Fayetteville Intermediate with 20, Hood Avenue Primary with 14, Huddleston Elementary with 30, Inman Elementary with 14, North Fayette Elementary with 20, Peeples Elementary with 32, Minter Elementary with 27 and Spring Hill Elementary with 22 fewer students than last year.

The least affected in terms of decreasing enrollment were the county’s middle schools where 72 fewer students were attending in early October compared to a year ago.

Only two middle schools showed an increase in student population this year. Those included Booth Middle with an additional 24 students and Flat Rock Middle with additional 28.

On the down side, Bennett’s Mill Middle lost 20 students along with four at Fayette Middle, 67 at Rising Star Middle, 34 at Whitewater Middle and five at the Alternative Middle School.

A look at the enrollment figures from the past 11 years were calculated during the second half of the school year. The exception is with the current year that is based on the most recent report from Oct. 4. The numbers show a steady increase in the student population from 2001 through 2007. Those figures began to decline in 2008, a trend that continues into the current school year.

2011 - 21,448 (as of Oct. 4)

2010 - 21,828

2009 - 22,047

2008 - 22,108

2007 - 22,367

2006 - 22,291

2005 - 21,531

2004 - 21,195

2003 - 21,314

2002 - 20,337

2001 - 19,832

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