Pandemic Highlights a 20-Year Downward Trend in Ohio School Enrollment
When parents take their children to school, something that may not be on their mind is how many students their children are attending school with. But, school enrollment is a topic that can make or break the funding that public schools receive. If a school has low enrollment, funding can get taken away or lowered to reflect the amount of students a school district has. Not only can this affect a graduating class, but if enrollment is dwindling, staff can get cut and buildings can be shut down. With the COVID-19 pandemic affecting many things, students in schools was one of them, but the disease only highlighted an issue that was already happening. According to Crestwood High School Superintendent Dave Toth, public school enrollment across Northeast Ohio has decreased for over 20 years.
While looking at Portage County schools, the districts of Ravenna, Waterloo, James A. Garfield, Southeast, and Rootstown consistently had decreasing enrollment since 2017, with Crestwood seeing the biggest downward trend in enrollment out of those districts. In 2021, in the midst of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, each school district in Portage County had a noticeable decrease in enrollment numbers. Kent City had the biggest dip in enrollment, going from 3,354 students in 2020 to 3,098 students in 2021.
Kent City has gained around 150 students in the 2022 school year, but the district saw a noticeable difference from 2020 to 2021, like other schools in the county. Experts say that the number of births have decreased and people are waiting until later in life to have children. This is what experts say is one of the biggest reasons why enrollment numbers are trending downward. While the pandemic was another reason for why enrollment is going down, especially in the years 2020 and 2021, the pandemic only added on to the issue.
No matter if districts have increasing or decreasing school populations, districts make decisions on where to place its students. If a school has too few students for a building to support, the district can consolidate it and shut it down. Low enrollment affects the funding that public schools receive. If schools have decreasing enrollment numbers, funding needs to reflect that. Schools are left to think about how it can save costs, with some districts, including Crestwood, needing to make staff cuts and consolidating buildings.
In Portage County, Kent City and Ravenna have the most buildings at 6. In Kent City, the current enrollment is 2923, which calculates to an average of 488 students per building, including high school and middle schools. In the case of Crestwood, which had to change its middle school into a board office, the district has 4 buildings with a total enrollment of 1445. That calculates to an average of 362 students per building.
Discussing the potential issues related to low enrollment numbers, TV2’s Shane Troyano spoke with experts across Ohio on how these issues affect school districts. Troyano also reports on how schools go through consolidating buildings, how the community reacts to these decisions, and how this process can affect someone’s wallet.