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Rockdale schools see an enrollment drop

CONYERS - Officials at Rockdale County Public Schools are trying to solve a mystery.

This month they observed a relatively large decrease in enrollment over a span of 20 days.

Between Day 100 of the 2008-09 school year, Jan. 21, and Day 120, Feb. 25, the school system saw a net enrollment drop of 79 students, from 15,736 to 15,657.

"That's a pretty significant drop," Lee Davis, chief financial officer at RCPS, told the Rockdale County Board of Education members earlier this month.

While enrollment figures vary from each 20-day count, Davis said this large drop is rather unusual, as the count usually tends to fluctuate between several students who may relocate within the district or move into or out of the district for various reasons.

"It's a phenomenon that we will continue to monitor," Davis said of the most recent drop.

Within the 20-day span, most schools saw no change or the addition or subtraction of only a few students. But some schools saw some major drops during the time period - Peeks Chapel saw a decrease of 35 students, and Memorial Middle School, which is in the same district, saw a decrease of 17. Heritage High School saw a 22-student drop, Rockdale County High School saw a 24-student decrease and Salem High School saw a drop of 14 students. Over the 20-day period, five other schools saw a total decrease of 19 students and 10 schools saw a total increase of 52 students.

Davis said school officials don't know yet what exactly caused this sudden drop across the board, but it could be a variety of factors. He said some could be transfers and even dropouts; also, he noted that construction permits are down.

"It's one of those factors that we don't necessarily know," he said.

The down economy also could cause an enrollment decrease, he said.

"Some are moving (out of the district) because their parents commute" to work and are moving closer to their employer, said board member Jean Yontz. "I think the economy has a great deal to do with it more than anything else."

Davis said the 120-day figure is only 18 students higher than last year's figure at the same time.

RCPS officials projected 16,116 students for this school year, up 551 students from the end of the last school year, but so far enrollment is falling short of those predictions by 459 students. The highest enrollment point so far this school year was Day 20, Aug. 29, 2008, with 15,809 students, 307 under projection; the 120-day count was the lowest so far this year.

The highest count last school year was the 160-day count.

"We obviously will continue to review this," Davis said about the enrollment drop.

The next enrollment count was scheduled for Thursday and will be reported at the next school board work session, which is scheduled for 7 p.m. April 16 in the central office board room, located at 954 North Main St. in Olde Town Conyers.

Michelle Floyd can be reached at michelle.floyd@newtoncitizen.com.