Expert: 8% fewer students in 10 years; Fayette schools to see long, slow decline in enrollments

Fayette County School Superintendent Jeff Bearden in a file photo.

It’s a bear market for school growth in Fayette County for at least the next decade, according to a demographic expert hired by the Board of Education.

By 2021, local schools will have 1,650 fewer students than currently enrolled, a projected decline of 8.1 percent.

The good news is that the shallow decline likely will postpone having to close any Fayette schools for at least two years, according to Superintendent Jeff Bearden.

The bad news is that any budget cuts in the near future likely will mean cuts in numbers of teachers and parapros.

Falling enrollment in Fayette County public schools has been an area of concern for the past several years. To more adequately examine the issue the school system hired a demographer to perform a study of future enrollment trends.

The preliminary findings of the report were received just hours before the Oct. 3 work session and were reported by Supt. Bearden. Less negatively impacting than expected, Bearden said the study shows that enrollment will decrease 8.1 percent over the next 10 years.

Bearden said the preliminary report shows that Fayette schools will experience a decline in enrollment of less than 1 percent each year for the next 10 years. That number, Bearden said, amounts to an overall decrease of 8.1 percent, or 1,650 students, during the 10-year period.

“I was expecting it to be a little more dramatic,” Bearden told board members.

Announcing that the full report along with a menu of options for board consideration would be presented at the regular meeting on Oct. 17, Bearden did recommend that the cost-saving idea of closing schools, a notion put forward in a recent community survey as part of a larger undertaking to trim $10 million out of the budget by July 1, be put on hold for the next two years based on the demographic survey.

“I think it would be premature to close schools at this time,” said Bearden “But this does put the community on notice that this could happen at some point if needed.”

Based on the preliminary report, Bearden said he would also recommend that the revenue-generating proposal of allowing qualified out-of-county students to pay tuition to attend Fayette schools be taken off the table.

What is likely to be the subject of budget cuts for next year will be personnel, Bearden said, since staffing accounts for approximately 90 percent of the budget.

Reminding board members that the study represents only projections relating to future enrollment, Bearden said the full report will include a demographic breakdown in the areas across the county where schools are located.

hospital1
hospital1's picture
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Joined: 09/29/2009
This is one Report

Remember, this is one report from one demographic expert. I bet I could hire another expert to say that we will grow and present facts that back this up. For years prior to the economic downturn our school board was working off another report that told us to build more schools and buy more land. That's one of the reasons we are in this financial situation.

One should not run with a report, one messenger tells us. I really don't believe we will lose that many students. In my neighborhood all of the houses that went into foreclosure were purchased and new families moved in. I didn't anaylze the student headcount, but it seems that it balanced out.

An article in the AJC recently stated that the south side is the only logical place to grow. I believe that this will be the case especially if our elected officials stop fighting and provide reasons for business to open in Fayette County.

BHH
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Joined: 02/11/2011
I still recommend leasing the buses to

the watermelon growers over the summer months.

That would bring in a few bucks.

Of course we would have to weld the windows back in at the end of the lease.

streetcleaner
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Joined: 06/13/2009
fewer students

I understand about a long term plan, but what about an immediate plan, now down to 10 months before school starts for the 2012-13 year , majority of reserves spent and no plan as of October 7, 2011 for budget cuts. I read in this article about teacher and parapro cuts, what about administrator cuts. Do we really think we can cut $10 million dollars from existing teachers and leave every school open and adequately staffed. We should not be in this position but we are, the time for a plan of action is now. You are going to have to alter the way we are doing business. Please do something now for the sake of the students, their parents and our teachers.
Mr. Bearden, unles you are going to do background checks on families, I would be very careful about opening up our school system to out of county residents to pay tuition. I beleive you will find there needs to be inherent ownership in the system by being a resident and taxpayer in the county.

g8trgrl
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Joined: 10/31/2007
school closings

Smart man that Mr. Bearden - put this headache off until you are long gone, which I am sure he will be.

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