Sharp decline in school enrollment
Nevada County Schools Superintendent Dr. Terry McAteer says declining enrollment is a trend of which his office has long been aware, but the latest numbers to reach his desk depict a dire scenario for area schools.
The 2005-06 attendance reporting for the Nevada County schools indicates a decline in student enrollment with the greatest reduction in numbers within the Pleasant Ridge Union School District, followed by the Nevada Joint Union High School District.
“We’ve had a decline for a number of years, but this year we see a sharper decline than any other year,” said McAteer. “Declining enrollment is having a significant impact on the quality of programs the schools are able to offer children and families – those being recreation and enrichment programs.
“We’ll be reducing, laying off teachers and staff (to tackle the problem). If the drop in enrollment continues at this rate, schools will start considering closing sites.”
The impact of declining enrollment will be felt in the next year’s budget, McAteer said. This is because schools receive funding according to the previous year’s enrollment. The Nevada Joint Union High School District has already reduced its expenditure by $3 million, said Superintendent Maggie Deetz.
“A lot of it is staffing,” she said. ” We’d had to raise the class size a bit, but our quality of teaching has not gone down at all. Teachers are real fanatics for their profession. It’s a way of life (for them), and they are dedicated to do their job regardless.”
One of the reasons for the decline, according to some, is the high cost of housing in the county.
“A lot of the declining enrollment is because of the cost of housing, as well as the employment market,” Deetz said. “Families are just moving away, and we still get retirees moving here.”
“We are a responding entity, which means if the public does not want moderate-priced houses, we will just have less students,” he said.
Linda Kramer, superintendent of the Pleasant Ridge Union District, which has 92 less students enrolled this year, is more optimistic about the situation.
“We need to creatively work as a team with foundations, parents’ clubs, boards of trustees and district staff to preserve our excellence,” Kramer said.
“There’s always going to be creative solutions to problems, which could be legislatively addressed coming from the state department of education working together locally and statewide to solve problems and all combination of these approaches.”
To contact staff writer Soumitro Sen, e-mail email@example.com or call 477-4229.
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