Our View: Shrinking enrollment raises future concerns | TheUnion.com

Our View: Shrinking enrollment raises future concerns

Are you wondering why we’re seeing fewer children playing in the parks or fewer yards littered with toys?

According to statistics released last week, the Nevada County School District has 443 fewer students than it did at this time last year. Overall, western Nevada County has around 12,800 students, which means we’ve lost about 4 percent of our collective student body.

The largest decline was reported by the Pleasant Ridge School District, which consists of the Alta Sierra, Cottage Hill and Pleasant Ridge elementary schools. It lost 92 students.

The Twin Ridges Elementary School District, which includes a number of charter schools and the home school study program, lost 77 students.

Another big loser was the Nevada Joint Unified High School District, which saw its enrollment decline by 86 students.

Some have suggested that the losses may simply indicate that students are transferring from public to private schools.

Terena Mendonca, the assistant superintendent of business for Nevada County Schools, said, though, the enrollment decline means that we have fewer children in the county.

First, young families are moving out of the area, she said. Secondly, the incoming pool of students is getting smaller.

The trend in declining enrollment has been happening for the past 10 years.

The losses are most pronounced at the earliest grades. For example, Mendonca points to the Nevada City district, which has lost 30 students in the past year.

The smallest class, she said, is the kindergarten class that now has 112 students. The first-grade class has 125 students; the eighth-grade class 191 students.

This indicates to her that we have fewer young families in the area. The kindergarten class, however, will likely increase in size at the junior high level, which tells Mendonca that it is older or middle-aged families that are moving here, rather than young families.

Those who leave the school district are moving out of the county, or even the state, in search of better opportunities and more affordable housing, according to the school district, which is notified when students enroll in other districts.

This most recent decline in enrollment means that our school district could receive around $2 million less in state aid next year, which puts extracurricular programs at risk, according to Terry McAteer, the district’s superintendent.

So far, our school districts seem to be performing well. But if these trends continue and shrinking schools cut programs, we’ll cheat students seeking a great education and make it more difficult to recruit businesses that value a robust school system.

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