By Patrick McCallister
For Hometown News
The students keep disappearing.
Volusia County Schools did its annual 20-day count on Monday, Sept. 17, and didn't count near as many students as officials had hoped.
The count helps determine how much money Volusia schools will receive from the state and federal governments. The fewer the students, the less the state and federal dollars.
The district counted 61,124 children and youths in its schools and programs. That's down 512 students from last school year's 20-day count. Saralee Morrisey, planning director, said she'll have an analysis ready for the Volusia County School Board by its Oct. 23 meeting. After last year's 20-day count, the district predicted student declines, which started in August 2007, were stopping, making this year's drop especially disappointing.
"I still think a lot of it has to do with jobs and foreclosures." Ms. Morrisey said. "So far it appears to be the economy and people leaving the area."
Between the 2010-11 school year and 2011-12, the district had lost only about 50 students. It was expecting to lose about 500 between those school years. In May 2007, just over 64,000 students attended Volusia's public schools. The projection at the time was the county's public schools would have more than 70,000 students by now.
Ms. Morrisey said the district has about 18,850 high school students, and 14,200 middle schoolers. There are slightly more than 25,500 elementary students. The district's 10 charter schools, hybrid private schools that operate with funding from the district, have nearly 2,000 students. Those students are part of the 20-day count, as are those in alternative education programs, such as the Department of Juvenile Justice Educational Program. Also in the count are 125 students in the district's online schooling program, Volusia Virtual.
There's one grade that's making student gains.
"We're up in kindergarten," Ms. Morrisey said.
She said there are 4,601 kindergarteners. Last year there were about 4,450.
Ms. Morrisey said while student declines cost a district state and federal funding, it has little chance to reduce costs proportionately. Student enrollment drops are unevenly distributed.
"Our biggest loss is in the elementary level," Ms. Morrisey said. "Southwest [Volusia] continues to be a concern. We have declines elsewhere, too."