The Journal Gazette
Sunday, October 18, 2020 1:00 am

County sees public school enrollment drop

ASHLEY SLOBODA | The Journal Gazette

Despite slight gains in two districts, public school enrollment in Allen County dropped this fall, and Fort Wayne Community Schools is bearing the brunt of it.

The urban district – which enrolled 29,710 students last year – has about 1,000 fewer, spokeswoman Krista Stockman said last week, characterizing the decline as significant.

“It's not the direction we want to head, but we do think a lot of this really has to do with the pandemic,” Stockman said. “These are trends we're seeing across the country.”

Along with a drop in kindergarten enrollment, significantly more students chose home schooling or a virtual charter school than in previous years.

The reasons vary, Stockman said. Some families were uncomfortable sending their children to school during a pandemic. Others wanted their students to participate in an established online program. Parents with home schooling experience preferred the flexibility of teaching their children rather than following the district's schedule.

Giving families a fully learning remote option helped stem enrollment loss for FWCS, which is one of the largest districts in Indiana.

“If we didn't have the remote option,” Stockman said, “more families would have opted for home schooling or virtual charter.”

Enrollment also fell in East Allen County Schools, but it remains the county's second most populous district despite the 115-student decline. Its fall enrollment is about 9,750 students.

Meanwhile, Northwest Allen County Schools gained about 11 students while Southwest Allen County Schools gained about 39. The districts are similarly sized with between 7,500 and 8,000 students each.

Several factors worked in SACS' favor, said Mark Snyder, business manager.

“Had we not been at school, not had the foresight or reaction to offer virtual options, I think this year we would have all been in a revenue crunch,” Snyder said last week.

SACS also is fortunate because new housing developments help offset enrollment losses, he said.

“We'll take the plus 39 given the circumstances this year,” Snyder said.

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