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Flagler Schools’ Overall Enrollment Flat For 4th Straight Year as Charters Keep Growing

| November 2, 2012

Flagler County school enrollment skyrocketed until 2008, then stopped growing, and charter-school enrollment eroded traditional schools’ enrollment.Click on the image for larger view. (© FlaglerLive)

Overall enrollment in the Flagler County public school district remained essentially flat for the fourth straight year, according to preliminary figures released by the district. But for the fourth straight year, enrollment in the district’s traditional public schools fell, while enrollment in charter schools exceeded 1,000 for the second year.

The numbers point to two significant trends: first, that while the population of the county has grown modestly, but 2,000 to 3,000 people since the housing crash–according to Census Bureau estimates–new residents are either elderly or retired or childless. New families are not moving in. Second, the district’s traditional schools are steadily losing population, amplifying a capacity already around 25 percent unfilled and shelving any immediate need for school construction. But the trend is also indicative of state government’s new subsidies for charter schools at the expense of traditional schools: state construction money is now exclusively reserved for charter schools.

And while Gov. Rick Scott restored $1 billion in education funding that he and the Legislature had cut the previous year, local school districts are still reeling from from an accumulation of cuts that has not been made up even as they watch new charter schools opening up and draining further dollars from the traditional-school bucket: charter schools are publicly funded, but privately run, and are under far fewer regulatory demands than traditional schools. Local school boards are still responsible for providing oversight of charters.

In Flagler County, overall enrollment as of Oct. 29 was 12,923 (barely under what it was at this time last year, when enrollment was 13,054). But enrollment in charter schools is 1,050, or 8 percent of the total, bringing the district’s traditional enrollment of 11,873 down to its lowest level since the 2005-06 school year, when it was 10,973. Indications are that, absent further overall growth that brings in new families, the trend will continue for the district.

Charter school enrollment remained above 1,000 despite the closure last year of Heritage Academy, a K-12 school that had failed two years in a row, leading the school board to revoke its charter. The reason: A new charter school opened, called Global Outreach Academy, though with an enrollment less than a third its projected first-year capacity of 368. The other operating charter schools are Palm Harbor Academy, with an enrollment of 60, and Imagine School at Town Center, the district’s steadiest and best-performing charter school, whose enrollment has grown strongly every year. That enrollment was 875 at the end of October, compared to 810 last year, and 526 the year before. Imagine built an addition last year that virtually doubled its size.

Palm Harbor Acedmy, on the other hand, saw its enrollment decline by more than half. It was at 131 last year. Palm Harbor was rated F last year, the first year when it was eligible for an overall performance grade. It is likely that parents, having seen the fate of the Heritage community after that school’s twin F’s, may have decided to pre-empt risking a similar fate by withdrawing children. There are just a combined seven students in Palm Harbor’s third and fourth grade classes.

The school district’s largest school by enrollment continues to be Flagler Palm Coast High School, with 2,388, followed by Matanzas High School, with 1,625.

Here’s how the district’s remaining schools’ enrollment breaks down:

Buddy Taylor Middle School: 1,021
Indian Trails Middle School: 827

Belle Terre Elementary: 1,357
Rymfire Elementary: 1,266
Bunnell Elementary: 1,251
Old Kings Elementary: 1,148
Wadsworth Elementary: 883
Phoenix Academy: 68
Everest Alternative School: 24
iFlagler, the virtual school: 15

Lower enrollment helped the district keep out of trouble, mostly, with class-size rules, which–by constitutional amendment–require class sizes not to exceed certain numbers. When schools exceed those numbers, they’re penalized, and must pay the state back a certain sum. That happened in Flagler, but with negligible fines (or funding penalties). The district exceeded the limit by 19 students in grades K-3, by 25 students in grades 4-8, and by one student in high school. Its funding was to be reduced $31,650.

Tom Tant, the district’s finance director, welcomed the figures.

“The District has made class size in all of our previous years and we would be in compliance if the class size measurement had continued to be on a school wide basis instead of a classroom by classroom, class period by class period basis, as it has been during the past two years,” Tant said in a written statement. “Most of our schools have at least 6 class periods per day and our high schools have seven class periods per day. We would like to commend all principals, teachers and staff members for their continuing efforts to improve Flagler County Schools to be the best in the State of Florida. It take many hours of work and co-ordination to assure compliance to our class size goals of 18 students in grades K-3, 22 students in grades 4-8, and 25 students in grades 9-12 core classroom.”

Tant added: “Please invite our citizens to visit our schools to observe the great advances in education we are making every day.”

9 Responses for “Flagler Schools’ Overall Enrollment Flat For 4th Straight Year as Charters Keep Growing”

  1. DWFerg says:

    So tell me again WHY we need impact fees to remain in place for the next 12-24 months. ? Are you kidding me Jim Landon ? and others who do not support a moratorium on these usury fees !!! Economic Stagnation just so we can fill the city/ county coffers for new edifices and Long’s Landing capital projects ? PLEASE !!!

  2. DWFerg says:

    Given the weak state of the national and Local economy, not much development is likely to take place in the next 12 months anyway–Ergo, little impact fee revenue will be collected anyway—-Why not try something different—-Having attended the BAC Friday @ Hammock Beach, you must innovate or you will NOT Grow !!!- This applies to Counties and Cities and Municipalities !!!!=” Leadership requires Bold Action , not the same way we have always done things here “— Risk is a dangerous thing- In this case, there appears to be LOW Risk , and a worthwhile attempt to Spur development !!

  3. Stevie says:

    “Please invite our citizens to visit our schools to observe the great advances in education we are making every day.”

    Public schools look like prisons. The teachers say the system is a disaster. I expect to see the enrollment decline rapidly as parents wise up to the reality their children come back home screwed up in the head from all the social engineering that goes on and the internet plays an increasing presence. One good teacher can reach millions of students who might actually learn something. Students will one day be free to per sue their dreams and their passions.

  4. Dadgum says:

    There is no proof that suspending impact fees will create more building. We have plenty of foreclosed homes for sale. Why should the City and taxpayers pay for the impact fees to spur home building. I think it is much ado about nothing but everything for the Home Builders Association. I agree with Jim Landon on this one.

    • johnny taxpayer says:

      You can’t have it both ways. On the one hand you say there is no proof that suspending the impact fees will create more building, on the other hand you say (correctly) that this is “everything for the home builders association”. Riddle me this if you please. Why would the home builders association be pushing so hard for an impact fee moratorium if their members, i.e. the small and medium size home builders actually building the houses, didn’t think it would work???

      Seems to me if you’re convinced the moratorium won’t spur building, you should support it anyway. After all if it won’t spur building, then the city and the school board really won’t loose any money!

  5. DWFerg says:

    No new schools will be needed for the next 3-5 years as projections are published by those in charge. So we need impact fees to fund WHAT ???, Teacher salaries?, computers, janitors, free school lunches ?- The Rotary Club of palm Coast supplies dictionaries without taxpayer support– We need more gestures of good faith to support our schools, not tax revenue—-We have enough teachers and Clearly Enough Administrators and Boards to start a PAC—Please let’s get REAL and hit the Reset button of achieving Excellence in our schools–Impact fees are to anticipate the needs of the future— The future for Flagler County is JOBS, i.e. JOBS—not Taxes !

  6. Lonewolf says:

    So WHY do we need the sales tax for schools??? And why did this info come out AFTER the vote on that?

  7. Reality Check says:

    You still need impact fees along with the tax so that money is in the coffer so no new bonds need to be issued for future construction or renovations. Dr. Guines was able to ensure that Rymfire Elementary was funded before they ever broke ground, unlike these 5 FCSB members who are only in it for the paycheck. Before Coleen Conklin chimes in about what a great job they do now, Dr. Guines was so devoted that he donated his School Board salary back to the schools for supplies and such. This should be a clear indicator to our incompetent School Board and the worst off administrators that the community is showing less and less confidence in your abilities to run the district. People are stuck with the FSCD because not everyone can afford private school, but the trend is clear those that can leave do. The FCSD is a model of government failure, but its okay to be a failure in government because you have tenure and it’s nearly impossible to lose your job. The administration in the district is a complete failure and needs to be restructured, but who does that the State, another government body. When you police yourself government there is no one to answer too, so failure is okay, that God you people do not work in the private sector or the unemployment rate in Flagler would be sky high from all the admins who would be terminated.

  8. Anonymous says:

    Why does it take Govenment (public) Schools some 8-10K a year to teach our kids and they get as good if not better of an education in “privet” ones?? The funding for kids educations in primary schools should follow the kid. Government should not have a lock on our $$ that is meant to educate our kids.

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