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Declining NA numbers studied

December 15, 2011

    The continuous decline in enrollment at North Adams Community Schools and the transiency of students in and out of the school district was outlined in a report presented to the school district's board of education at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday.
    The report, which focused on student enrollment from 2009 through the beginning of the current school year, showed that North Adams schools have seen an overall decline of 181 students during that time. And while the number of students and families that have moved outside the school district is noteworthy, the report shows that the bulk of the decline in student population is reflected in a significant decrease in the number of kindergarten students entering the school system annually.
    According to the report, the 2009 school year started with 117 incoming kindergarten students, 68 fewer than the number of seniors who had graduated the previous spring. In 2010 there were 92 fewer kindergarteners beginning school than there were seniors who had graduated three months earlier.
    The report also tracked students who had withdrawn or transfered from the North Adams school district. Of the 77 students who transfered out of the district in 2009-10, 16 went to Adams Central, eight went to Fort Wayne or East Allen schools, three went to South Adams and 40 moved outside the area.
    In the 2010-11 school year, 107 students left the North Adams school district. Of that total, 12 students left the state of Indiana, while the bulk of the transfers moved to the greater Fort Wayne area.
    "The numbers show that a vast majority of (enrollment) losses are simply because the incoming kindergarten classs numbers have been going down," school board president Tim Ehlerding said. "And there are also a lot of people moving from the district. While the numbers are disturbing, there seems to be no single reason why we're seeing these kind of decreases."
    Elherding said Adams County has "not kept up" with economic development efforts to retain and attract industry, "and the loss of jobs is impacting our school system."
    Superintendent Wylie Sirk said the large number of government assisted housing units in Decatur contributes to the "transiency of the population," and board member Michelle Stimpson said there are "a lot of underlying factors" that contribute to people leaving Adams County.
    "Can this school and this community impact those numbers?" asked Ehlerding. "Yes, but it's not going to happen overnight."
    "We need to do a better job of marketing ourself, of showcasing what we do," said board member Deb Bergman.
    While enrollment is down, student performance is on the rise, said Sirk, with the number of North Adams students passing ISTEP exams in English and math exceeding the state average in each of the last two years.
    Sirk also presented to the board the results of preliminary parent survey data from Southeast and Northwest elementary schools. The surveys showed an overwhelming majority of responding parents have a positive level of satisfaction with the school district.
    Those numbers prompted Ehlerding to declare he had "no intention of changing the elementary school configuration right now."
    "Great things are happening," said Ehlerding.

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