Public school enrollments continue to decline

Austen Thibault, The Union Democrat

Early numbers show school enrollment continues to tick down in the Mother Lode, while a small population bubble of graduating eighth-graders bolstered high school enrollment slightly.

Most public elementary school districts in Tuolumne and Calaveras counties saw about 15 fewer students enroll as of the first day of school this year compared to last year. That totals nearly 250 fewer students in Mother Lode public schools.

The Mother Lode's school enrollment has generally declined for just over 15 years, ultimately totaling thousands fewer students than there once were.

First-day enrollment accounts for kids whose parents signed them up, while attendance will show who's actually showing for the school year. Most districts work on solidifying those numbers for a week or two after the first day of school - Aug. 20, this year.

The districts say attendance will ultimately be lower than first-day enrollment, often by 15 to 20. Attendance is critical to most school districts as it is the primary factor in state school funding.

This year's numbers are no surprise, said Margie Bulkin, deputy superintendent and soon-to-be superintendent of schools for Tuolumne County.

"By and large across Tuolumne County, school district enrollment mirrors general growth of jobs and housing and everything else in our county," she said. "Until we see all of those indicators grow, school enrollment will remain where it's at."

For the complete story, see the Aug. 25, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.

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