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Orleans school districts have second biggest enrollment drop in NY in past decade

Photo by Tom Rivers: On June 22, 120 students graduated from Medina High School. The State Education Department says there were 127 students in the class in 2017-18. Ten years earlier, Medina had 171 students in the senior class.

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 6 September 2018 at 7:53 am

5 districts are down 1,573 students or 21.5%; Only Yates County at 22.5% has more

Orleans County is one of only two counties in the state to see student enrollment drop by more than 20 percent in the past 10 years, according to a report from The Empire Center for Public Policy, a conservative think tank and government watchdog in Albany.

While all upstate counties are seeing a decline in students, the loss is among the most severe in Orleans, where the five public school districts decreased from 7,327 students (grades prekindergarten through 12) in 2007-08 to 5,754 in 2017-18. That decrease of 21.5 percent is topped only by the 22.5 percent in Yates County, which includes Penn Yan and Dundee.

Map courtesy of The Empire Center: All of the upstate counties have experienced student enrollment declines in the past decade.

The Empire Center highlighted the enrollment losses on Tuesday. The organization said only about 100 of the 700 school districts in the state have added students in the decade. New York City and its nearby suburbs are seeing significant gains, while the upstate districts, especially the rural ones, are shrinking.

“Only 100 of the state’s nearly 700 districts have had net enrollment growth since 2007-08,” the Empire Center said. “Pockets of growth tend to be concentrated at socio-economic extremes, ranging from the wealthy Rye and Mamaroneck school districts, to struggling upstate cities such as Albany and Syracuse, to inner suburbs such as Roosevelt in Nassau County.”

In Orleans County, Kendall experienced the biggest decline in the decade at 25 percent. Lyndonville, at a 17.6 percent drop, had the least loss of the five districts in Orleans.

This chart shows the drop in the 10 years for the five local school districts.

District                        2007-08           2017-18           enrollment drop          % decline

Albion                          2,405               1,897               508                              21.1

Holley                          1,270               999                  271                              21.3

Kendall                        916                  688                  228                              24.9

Lyndonville                  761                  627                  134                              17.6

Medina                        1,975               1,543               432                              21.9

Countywide                 7,327               5,754               1,573                           21.5

Source: NYS Education Department, Orleans Hub calculations  

Going back 20 years, the enrollment decline is more steep – 33.4 percent in the county, a drop of nearly 3,000 students. However, the loss would be even higher without the prekindergarten enrollment.

In 1997-98, none of the local public schools offered PreK. In 2017-18, the five districts combined had 290 students in PreK, which accounted for 5 percent of the overall enrollment. If the PreK students aren’t included in the comparison, the enrollment change in 20 years would be a decrease of 3,175 students from the 8,639 in 1997-98, a 36.8 percent loss.

This chart shows the drop in the 20 years for the five local school districts.

District                        1997-1998       2017-18           enrollment drop          % decline

Albion                          2,750               1,897               853                              31.0

Holley                          1,490               999                  491                              33.0

Kendall                        1,197               688                  509                              42.5

Lyndonville                  893                  627                  266                              29.8

Medina                        2,309               1,543               766                              33.2

Countywide                 8,639               5,754               2,885                           33.4

Source: NYS Education Department, Orleans Hub calculations

The local districts have reduced staff and some districts have partnered with neighboring schools for athletic and extracurricular programs. Medina and Lyndonville, in particular, share several sports teams and also do a combined high school musical.

About a decade ago, Lyndonville and Barker did a study about merging the two districts, but the issue didn’t go before the public for a vote.

“These enrollment trends highlight the need for the kind of innovative reforms that New York’s governor, Legislature and union-dominated education establishment have resisted,” The Empire Center stated. “For example, rural districts need more regulatory freedom to experiment with distance learning and regional high school programs. Relief from state mandates—especially those affecting the hiring, assignment and compensation of teachers—would give all districts the greater flexibility they need to deal effectively with the biggest demographic changes they have experienced in a generation.”

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