NA numbers: down, down, down

    Enrollment at North Adams Community Schools continues to decline, with the student population throughout the school district this year reflecting the eighth consecutive year in which student numbers have been lower than the previous year.
    Superintendent Wylie Sirk told members of the North Adams school board on Tuesday that 1,854 students are enrolled in kindergarten through grade 12 this year.
That number is down from 1,977 at the start of the 2010 school year.
    Total student population at North Adams stood at 2,276 for the 2004-2005 school year but has declined annually since that time. Sirk said the struggling economy and the overall shortage of jobs locally has contributed to the decline as families in many instances have left the North Adams school district.
    The superintendent said current figures show that while 111 students are new to the North Adams school district, 125 students have transfered out of the district since the end of the 2010-2011 school year.
    Enrollment at Bellmont High School for the current year stands at 759 students, Principal Scot Croner said, down from 801 students last year and a five-year high of 907 during the 2007-2008 school year.
    Bellmont Middle School enrollment was listed with 524 students this year, down from 557 the previous year. Third- and fourth-grade enrollment at Northwest Elementary School currently stands at 347 students, down from 369 last year.
     Southeast Primary School, which houses pre-kindergarten, kindergarten and first-grade students, shows a total enrollment of 308 for the current school year.

     As enrollment at North Adams continues a downward trend, the number of students who qualify for the free- or reduced-lunch program shows a move in the opposite direction. At the high school level, more than 38 percent of students are eligible for free or reduced-lunches.
    That figure is up from 33 percent last year and has more than doubled over the past five years, Croner said.
    Principal Scott Miller said 59 percent of students at Bellmont Middle School  qualify this year for the free or reduced lunch program. At Northwest Elementary that figure is 57 percent, and at Southeast Primary School approximately 63 percent qualify for some lunch assistance.