Brewton schools see enrollment decline

Published 3:31 am Monday, August 11, 2008

By Staff
More W.S. Neal Elementary students are riding the bus this year, rather than getting a ride from their parents - and that's a trend that is likely due to higher gas prices, Principal John Knott said.
W.S. Neal High School Principal Phillip Ellis said some of the calls he has received echo that sentiment.
Students in both communities headed back to school Wednesday with backpacks and notebooks in tow - but with one major difference.
Enrollment is up at Neal Elementary and other East Brewton schools this year, while it is down at Brewton City Schools.
“Last year we really hit a high,” Knott said. “At one point we were over 600.”
This year is no different; about 594 students have started classes at the East Brewton school.
W.S. Neal High School is up about 100 students, Ellis said.
Brewton City Schools Superintendent Lynn Smith said that the three city schools are down about 80 students altogether, with many of them simply moving out of the county or state.
Losing students in such circumstances is nothing new, he said. The difference is that those students are not being replaced by new students moving into the district.
City schools do not appear to be losing out-of-district students to Neal schools, either, he said. The Brewton and Neal schools, which are part of the Escambia County School District, have an agreement that they will accept out-of-district students.
In fact, the number of out-of-district kindergarten students at Brewton Elementary - normally about 30 percent of the total - is now almost 50 percent, Smith said.
Knott said he believes there are a few reasons for the increase at Neal Elementary. Apartment complexes near the East Brewton schools are drawing young families with children, and other families are moving into the Brewton area from surrounding counties specifically because of area schools' success.
All but one of the Brewton and East Brewton schools met state academic standards again this year, according to results from the state Department of Education.
Knott said the school has not encountered any problems from the higher enrollment, and so far the first few days of school have been successful, he said.