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Enrollment is holding steady

Officials for School District 196 understand the housing crisis is affecting its communities, but for now, enrollment is remaining steady.

As of Oct. 1, the district has a total enrollment of 27,447 students in all programs. That is a decrease of 236 students from last year, a .88 percent loss.

While the numbers show decreasing enrollment in the high school and middle schools -- a recent trend -- elementary school enrollment has held steady or risen. The district has witnessed a decrease of less than 1 percent for the last several years.

"There are a lot more graduating seniors than there are enrolling kindergartners," said Kim Reis, the district's student information supervisor. "That's a trend that is being seen nationwide. We're having enough students move into the district that we are offsetting that."

Despite the downturn in housing, and new building construction coming at slower rates than expected, the district has been able to keep its enrollment steady.

The consistent enrollment has allowed the district to plan properly in setting its budget. The Oct. 1 enrollment numbers are used to finalize the district's budget for this year and set projections for next year.

The steady enrollment signifies strength in the district, but it doesn't necessarily reflect future consistency.

"The families moving in tells me we have a pretty stable community because we aren't going up and down that much," board member Kevin Sampers said. "But it's probably then going to be more difficult to forecast because its moving in and out. It's not like it used to be, where a kid started in first grade and we could predict they would be there in 12th grade."

The Oct. 1 enrollment numbers are submitted to the Department of Education each year and are used to determine the amount of per-pupil funding each district receives from the state.

The total kindergarten through 12th-grade enrollment, excluding the district's center-based special education, early childhood special education and transition plus programs, decreased by 233 students for a total of 26,165.

"Our special education programs have been holding quite steady," Reis said.

In fact, those enrollment numbers increased this year.

There are 440 students in the early childhood special education program, up from 417 two years ago. Center-based special education has gone from 634 participants two years ago to 638 this year. The transition plus program has seen an increase to 138 students from 104 two years ago.

The Oct. 1 enrollment is actually 129 more students more than were projected last November.

"We've been greater than projections, which is always a good thing," Reis said. "The projections are used to plan for teachers and to budget, and we like to come in close. But they've been a little higher than we've projected and we have been doing that."

Using October's count, the district will present its 2010-2011 enrollment projections in November.

Following the recent trends, the projections are expected to decrease again.

"We've got a few more years of dipping slowly, it looks like," board member Jackie Magnuson said.

Graduating classes tend to be larger than incoming kindergarten enrollment, leading to the trend of decreased numbers both state- and nationwide. Reis said the district also is seeing more multiple family homes. Because of the housing trouble, more families are moving in together.

"Each class, as you go down from kindergarten is a little smaller," Reis said. "So, as they move up it declines just a little bit. The class that leaves the school is a little bigger than the class that enters the school. It seems that the families that move into the district might be more of the elementary age because that's where we seem to be holding our own.

"It's a very mobile society, it really is."