There’s good and bad in the latest school enrollment numbers—the numbers that define how much state dollars are distributed to Flagler County to support the local district, and how many teachers and other employees are hired, or fired.
With more than 1,700 employees, the district is by far the largest employer in the county. (Florida Hospital Flagler is second, with about 1,000 employees.) So job gains or losses in the district can have a considerable ripple effect in the local economy.
Every student gets a state aid allocation of $6,316.55. A loss or a gain of 160 students translates into a positive or negative $1 million hit on the economy. Short of updated census data, the school district’s population is also the most accurate gauge of the county’s demographics, reflecting either growth or decline in what tends to be the non-retired segment of the local population: working-age families with children. Those numbers have been declining since the Great Recession. The decline is echoed by the latest labor force data, which in November shows a 4 percent decrease in comparison with November 2012.
As of the end of November, the district had 12,794 students. The good news is that the district saw enrollment rise for the past two months, albeit by very small numbers. It rose by 25 in November, and by 19 in October, not enough to overcome a loss of 85 in September.
“For the first time in a while we feel like we’ve stabilized a little bit,” Acting Superintendent Jacob Oliva said, “and we’re seeing a little trend in growth, and we think after the holidays, if we can maintain that enrollment—because that’s when we’ve seen a decline in years past—that will be kind of a benchmark for us.”
District Finance Director Tom Tant presented the numbers to the Flagler County School Board Tuesday evening. In another bit of better news, he said the November figure represents an increase of about 144 students from last May. But comparing May to November is not as accurate as comparing November to November, because enrollment almost always falls after January. When compared to November 2012 figures, the district sees a loss of 110 students.
“If we can just hang in there and keep the slope going green, I think we’ll see some improvements for this year,” Tant said. “But we do have some challenges.”
And that’s where the not-so good news begins. First, the Legislature has reformulated what each student is worth in terms of state dollars. Previously, a student who took six courses at a local high school and two courses at Daytona State College, as part of the student’s dual-enrollment program, the district was reimbursed for all eight courses. Not anymore. The district will now be reimbursed only for six-eighth of that enrollment. “even though we have them counted as fully enrolled in our schools,” Tant said. “That’s something new to the school district and something new to the state of Florida.”
Then there’s the other bad news: “We always lose 1 to 2 percent between October and February,” Tant said. That’s the equivalent of 100 to 200 students. The loss takes place in high schools, after students get their mid-semester grades in January. “There are times when students finish and they want to enter the workforce or pursue other options,” Oliva said. The district encourages students to stay enrolled, and at least do dual enrollment, but even then, it wouldn’t help with district finances given the new state formula.
The district has been hiring teachers even though the numbers haven’t changed much, but that’s been due mostly to resignations and retirements, Oliva said, with new positions only in exceptional student education.
Flagler County School Enrollment, 2011-2014
|Enrollment at End of May 2011||First-Day Enrollment, August 2011||Certified Enrollment, Feb. 2012||Enrollment at End of May, 2013||Enrollment at end of May 2014||Enrollment on Sept. 15, 2014|
|Belle Terre Elementary||1504||1424||1400||1357||1343||1329 (-14)|
|Buddy Taylor Middle||1008||1013||980||1006||1033||1002 (-31)|
|Bunnell Elementary||1306||1224||1228||1290||1281||1235 (-46)|
|Flagler-Palm Coast High||2155||2485||2338||2247||2306||2442 (+136)|
|Imagine at Town Center||520||809||815||867||896||906 (+10)|
|Indian Trails Middle||892||914||875||806||869||909 (+40)|
|Matanzas High||1485||1606||1587||1566||1576||1606 (+30)|
|Old Kings Elementary||1142||1142||1134||1131||1111||1106 (-5)|
|Palm Harbor Academy||92||101||112||66||63||66 (+3)|
|Phoenix Academy||66||72||68||65||79||71 (-8)|
|Rymfire Elementary||1379||1298||1317||1307||1268||1172 (-96)|
|Wadsworth Elementary||931||860||862||879||901||871 (-30)|