The Herald Bulletin

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December 10, 2009

ACS enrollment projected to continue downward

Losses of hundreds annually to continue

ANDERSON­, Ind. — Anderson Community Schools has lost students by the thousands in the past decades, and projections for future student enrollment show a school system expected to continue losing about 2 to 3 percent of its student body per year.

“At the very least, the figure we have to look at is 1,200-1,800 to 2,000 (fewer students) over the next four years,” ACS board member Tim Long said in a telephone interview on Thursday. “According to most of the trendline data we saw, we’ll lose about 300 students a year over the next four years at minimum.”

That would mean more than $1.8 million in lost revenue annually on top of projected multimillion deficits facing the school corporation.

Kevin Brown, ACS business manager, said the Indiana Department of Education has predicted an enrollment decline of about 200-300 students per year over the next five years — not quite as steep a decline as Long said was expected.

“Crystal balls are a rare commodity nowadays,” Brown said. “Enrollment trending is a very difficult thing to project.”

ACS’s enrollment this year dropped to about 9,100 students — 1,000 fewer than in 2005. The system has lost students each year since 1971.

Declining enrollment and a resulting budget crisis are driving the Anderson Community Schools board toward a school consolidation vote that will be taken on Tuesday. The board will vote on whether there will be one high school with grades 10-12, or two schools with grades 7-12.

Brown said enrollment will plateau at a point in the future, though it’s not clear when. “We believe that’s an entire community effort,” he said, that involves city government, business groups and greater collaboration between stakeholders in the system.

Some of the forces driving falling student populations have been factors for years, such as the economic turmoil created from General Motors’ decline. A new charter school in the city, as well as changes in state law that allow students to transfer tuition-free to other districts, also are draining students.

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