Numbers game

Published 4:56 pm Wednesday, November 14, 2007

By By Kerry Whipple Bean – publisher
The renewal of a tax for county and city schools came in the nick of time last year for W.S. Neal Elementary School - the money meant Principal John Knott could hire another teacher to help with growing enrollment at the East Brewton campus.
In fact, enrollment across Escambia County Schools is up by about 100 students, Assistant Superintendent Randall Little said.
It's a different story for Brewton City Schools, where enrollment is down for the second year in a row, Superintendent Lynn Smith said.
The three schools in the city system were down a total of 63 students from last year after the latest enrollment count at 20 days past Labor Day. The state Department of Education uses that figure to help determine funding for the next fiscal year.
While some families may simply be moving out of the city district into the county school district, Smith said he believes the downward trend is related more to economics.
Many school systems in Alabama are losing students, particularly in south Alabama - Baldwin County notwithstanding, Smith said. For example, Covington County Schools' enrollment was down as well this year.
Last year, the state's overall enrollment growth was less than 1 percent, and half of the city and county school systems across the state lost students.
Smith estimated city schools next year could lose funding for about three teacher units - one at each school - as a result of the enrollment changes.
The school system already lost teacher units going into the current school year, but those losses were absorbed by supplemental local funding and by the normal attrition of employees.
But Smith said school systems who lose enrollment also need to look carefully at the state funding they receive for support staff such as secretaries and janitorial staff. Brewton City Schools watch those numbers carefully, he said.
Enrollment fluctuates at many schools, but Smith said it is “unusual” to have two years in a row of lower enrollment.
County schools, meanwhile, have seen a few years of steady growth. Knott said he believes a new apartment complex in East Brewton - just down the street from the elementary school - is one contributing factor to the higher enrollment. Population growth is most likely happening outside the Brewton city limits, he said.
County school enrollment this year is: W.S. Neal High, 446; W.S. Neal Middle, 452; W.S. Neal Elementary, 594; A.C. Moore Elementary, 298; Rachel Patterson Elementary, 472; Huxford Elementary, 290; Escambia County Middle School, 601; Escambia County High School, 619; Flomaton Elementary, 313; Flomaton High School 358; and Pollard McCall School, 207.

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