Student enrollment increasing

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 6, 2008

Preliminary student enrollment numbers reported to the state’s department of education show an increase in the student population of two of the three school systems in Covington County.

Those numbers, also called 40-day enrollment numbers or average daily membership (ADM), are reported each year to the state Department of Education and are used to determine the level of state funding for the system. They are gathered the first 20 days of school after Labor Day.

Locally, the Andalusia City Schools and Covington County Schools systems reported slight increases in overall student enrollment; however, Opp City Schools saw a more than 30 student decrease for this school year.

Opp Superintendent Michael Smithart said his system experienced a decrease of 32 students – a decrease that will greatly impact funding for the system.

OCS reported 1,372 students with 628 at South Highlands Elementary School; 343 at Opp Middle School and 401 at Opp High School.

“We have concluded that the majority of the students relocated to another town, generally due to the economic situation (in Opp),” Smithart said. “It’s disappointing to have a decrease like this when you have so little control over the variables that lead to it.

“It’s not all economics, we have to continue to address the number of dropouts we have, but the greatest percentage relocated,” he said.

Smithart said the decrease will impact funding for the school.

“There is no way this will not impact our funding for the 2009-2010 school year,” he said. “A decrease like this translates into a great deal of money. How much remains to be seen because of the divisors used at the different grades levels.”

As for the possible decrease in teacher units for the system, Smithart said it’s unknown how the system will be impacted.

“It’s hard to say,” he said. “The divisors for the grade levels are different and depending upon where the decreases are, it could possibly be as many as two units.”

County Superintendent Sharon Dye said total enrollment for the system was up by 12 students with Straughn area schools seeing the most growth.

“Overall we have an increase in enrollment according to our 20-day report,” Dye said. “We have experienced a decrease in some areas. This is the trend across our country for small rural schools due to small businesses closing which creates a decrease in the rural population. However, overall our enrollment has been stable for several years.

“The growth in enrollment continues to be in the Straughn area due to the economic growth in the eastern part of the county or the airport area,” she said.

Total enrollment for the system is 3,149. In the Straughn area, ADM was 1195; in Fleeta, 219; in Florala, 501; in Pleasant Home, 544, and in Red Level, 690.

In the Andalusia City Schools, Superintendent Dr. Beverly McAnulty said she was thankful to report the system was not suffering a decline in students — instead numbers show enrollment up by seven students overall.

“Our overall numbers are holding steady with a slight increase at the middle school level,” McAnulty said. “With that stability, it’s easier to plan for the future. We are thankful we’re certainly not a system in decline.”

Reports indicate Andalusia Elementary School shows an ADM of 845 students, a 12 student decrease from last year; 399 ADM at Andalusia Middle School, a 26 student increase, and 434 at Andalusia High School, a seven student decrease.

McAnulty attributes the increase at the middle school to overall class size.

“In years past, we had larger classes coming through the elementary school and those students are now being promoted to the middle school,” she said. “Since funding is based on enrollment, we’re probably going to lose a teacher unit at the high school and gain one at the middle school. Then when those students go to high school, it’ll go right back.”