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Published: Saturday, 9/17/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

Enrollment declines in Toledo Public Schools

Decline of about 800 from 2010-11 to result in less money

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Students register for school at Robinson Elementary School. Students register for school at Robinson Elementary School.
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Another year, another several hundred students gone from Toledo Public Schools.

Enrollment is down between about 800 and 1,000 students compared with last fall, depending on yet-to-be counted special-needs pre-school students, according to TPS data. Just under 23,000 were enrolled as of Friday, down from about 24,000 last year and 25,000 two years ago.

The numbers aren’t set in stone; some students could return in coming weeks, if history holds true. But even if they do, TPS schools still will have fewer students this year.

The decline means less money and a continually shrinking district, which less than a decade ago had 10,000 more students. Districts get a set amount of money per student from the state.

It also means tough staffing decisions and a temporary delay at some schools of the districtwide K-8 shift put into effect this year.

The continued exodus was not unexpected, unlike last year’s steep drop that was partially caused by abrupt cuts to transportation and athletics.

“I think people for the most part like the K-8 [model],” Jim Gault, TPS chief academic officer, said. “We are not losing students because of a transition or a loss of services.”

More than anything else, district officials believe TPS enrollment is down simply because Toledo has fewer children.

Mr. Gault said he expects later figures will show that charter school enrollment citywide stagnated, or possibly declined.

The Toledo district is likely to lose about 350 students through Ohio’s EdChoice vouchers, meaning more than 2,000 TPS students now attend private schools through the program, Mr. Gault said. But the rate seems to have slowed, because in most years, about 500 new students left.

hio officially counts students during the first week of October. Mr. Gault said he projects those figures will show Toledo lost students to suburban districts, some of which moved to open enrollment to counteract drops.

Although TPS continues to lose students, enrollment at several suburban school districts remained largely static.

Oregon City schools, for instance, had about 3,900 students enrolled as of Friday, on par with last year.

About 6,800 students, maybe a dozen more than in the year before, were in Washington Local schools as of Wednesday. In the Sylvania school district, this year’s enrollment of about 7,700 is down, but not by much.

For TPS officials, the move to a K-8 model made predictions more difficult than normal, and low enrollment at some schools mean that the district’s ambitious move to abandon all elementary and middle schools was scaled back. Seventh-grade and eighth-grade class sizes at three schools — Edgewater, Martin Luther King, and Ella P. Stewart — were so low that the schools don’t have those grades this year.

Those three schools that were all K-5 schools last year, making their transition harder than others. Both King and Stewart also are magnet schools, meaning they have no specific neighborhood from which to draw. With the K-8 model, however, each school added grade six this year and will add a new grade the next two years.

Chad Kolebuck, the principal at King, said that the school retains students once they enroll. The school added a few students this year, and Mr. Kolebuck predicted that next year’s seventh grade class would fill up.

“It’s just one of those things that happened,” Mr. Kolebuck said.

hen building enrollment falls short of projections, administrators can decide either to absorb the cost of inordinately low class sizes or remove teachers from those buildings. After another round of budget cuts, district officials chose the latter.

District officials gave some schools with low enrollment, such as Samuel M. Jones at Gunckel Park, until after Labor Day to boost head counts. When more students did not show up, Jones lost teachers in first, third, and fourth grades.

Deborah Kirby, a Jones third-grade teacher, wrote emails to district staff, asking for options besides cutting one of the three sections of third grade. When the class was cut last week, she wrote to families, asking them to petition district officials for a return of those teachers.

She said that Jones staff, although dedicated, needed help because many students there tested well below grade level. The cuts were a blow to teachers who are dedicated to turning the school around, she said.

“I’m sad for the children,” she said Friday. “I’m disappointed that the district didn’t look more closely at what we needed.”

Mr. Gault said that with 36 third graders, the school could not sustain three third-grade teachers — which Jones was staffed with before the cuts — because other schools needed more teachers.

Some schools, such as Beverly and Marshall, had enrollment well above projections. With about 650 students at Beverly, district officials added about a half dozen teachers before the year started.

That left the district staffed over projections, and when Labor Day hit, staffing was evened out by reductions at schools such at Jones.

No one was laid off, because the district had projected it would lose about 1,000 students. But hitting the mark wasn’t cause for celebration.

“It’s not a good thing we hit our projection,” Mr. Gault said. “We wanted to be 1,000 students up.”

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086.



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