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Figures Show City School Enrollment Down

Numbers show a decline in student enrollment in the Alexandria City Public School system, a trend that is projected to continue for the next several years, according to school officials.

The five-year projections were given to the School Board at the Nov. 7, Board meeting. The numbers were significantly lower than those the Board received last year.

Councilman David G. Speck raised the issue of enrollment at City Council’s retreat back in October. He asked the rhetorical question then whether the city would get a refund when enrollment numbers did not meet projections. This week he reacted to the latest projections.

“This is very interesting,” he said, “and raises questions about levels of funding. The school system has been asking for more funding based on the fact that there is going to be increasing numbers of students. I understand that projecting the number of students is a very difficult thing to do. However, when you take credit for the sunshine, you have to take credit for the rain, too.

“I believe that we must continue with some level of renovations at T. C. Williams and the Minnie Howard Ninth Grade Center. However, we may need to look closely at operating expenses,” Speck said.

IN 2001, there were 11,104 sutdents enrolled in grades K—12 in the city’s 18 public schools. As of Sept. 30, 2002, there are 10,979 students enrolled, a decrease of 25 students. This is about 300 students less than had been projected to be in the system this year.

“The decline in enrollment seems to be mostly at the elementary school level,” said V. Rodger Digilio, a member of the School Board. “This indicates to me that those with older children are remaining in the city while young families are leaving, probably because they cannot afford to live here.”

Over the next five years, the decline is expected to continue. By the 2007-08 school year, there are projected to be 10,501 students in the system, 478 fewer than today. When plans for renovating T. C. Williams High School and the Minnie Howard Ninth Grade Center were first being discussed, the school system was estimating that there could be as many as 3,000 students at T. C. Williams and 1,000 or more at Minnie Howard. The latest projections indicate that the maximum number of students that are projected to attend T. C. Williams will be in the 2006-07 school year, when the enrollment is projected to be 2,188. The maximum number of students projected to be enrolled at Minnie Howard is 805 in the 2005-06 school year.

“With the city’s and the state’s fiscal constraints, it is imperative that we take our time and get the best possible facilities for our students and all of the rest of our citizens," said Councilwoman Claire Eberwein. "It is much more cost-effective to plan the high school and the recreation center and the park jointly.”

Digilio is looking at Minnie Howard as well. “I raised the issue at our last facilities committee meeting,” he said. “We need to look at the things we need to do because the school is too small now and do those and maybe not do the things that would significantly increase the capacity at the school since we don’t seem to have the numbers of students coming that we originally thought would be there,” he said.