2013-14 Enrollment: Continued Evidence For Building Consolidation

The enrollment for 2012-13 school year had been the lowest enrollment in more than 10 years. We do all remember the feasibility report that was often referenced to justify the aggressive building projects. That report speculated more than 500 new students by this time, and the aggressive building sunk our District into massive debt.

At the September 9th Work Session Meeting, Dr Newcome reported there are currently 2,502 students enrolled compared to 2,505 students as of November 1 last year. While basically flat from last year, this is 148 students less than the 2004-05 school year.

Let us put that number in perspective. In the 2012-13 school year, the District averaged 193 students per grade. The speculation back in 2003 was the District would have enrollment of over 3,150 students by today, or about 243 students per grade.

Adding insult to injury, the most current enrollment projections from the Pennsylvania Department of Education expect Octorara’s enrollment to drop to 2,459 by the 2020-21 school year. It will be 691 students less than speculated; almost like having cut three full grades out of the District’s 2003 speculations.

The aggressive building and campus concept was done without the tax-base to support it. Fact is, the District was never on track to hit the enrollment numbers from the 2003 feasibility report. The District even created the Octorara Regional Planning Commission in 2006, and it failed to manifest the projection speculations for them.

It is time the District admits the large campus concept, with 3 elementary schools, was irresponsible and wrong. It is time to consider a consolidation plan to save tax payers money, redirect funds into the classroom, and pay off the debt.

8 thoughts on “2013-14 Enrollment: Continued Evidence For Building Consolidation

  1. Does this enrollment figure include all students that attend charter schools and IU programs that the district is financially responsible for?

      • I guess the speculations from 2003 were a little off. I don’t think they were 100% inaccurate but I also don’t think the school district could’ve projected close to 200 kids (today) attending charter schools back when the feasibility study was being done.

        But I also feel that some project(s) that were completed as a result of the feasibility projection were hurried. Many in the public feel that the 5-6 building (OIS) should not have been built. A renovation/addition of the OHS/OMS would have been far less expensive and would’ve garnered the same result.

      • That’s the thing, even adding the charter school kids back into the enrollment numbers, and the District just goes from a loss to almost flat. The enrollment and tax-base was never there to support the large campus.

        However, at this point the question is, knowing the enrollment and tax-base never appeared, does the District continue to have property owners pay for the mistake? The cost is not only the millions going to debt payments every year, but also the cost of the building itself (maintenance, staff, etc).

  2. I can understand easily enough a building program that was predicated on projections of increased student enrollment that never materialized, and why serious consideration should now be given to consolidation of the OASD physical plant. But, and here I confess my ignorance, I really don’t understand the social and financial ying and yang of charter schools vis a vis traditional schools. Perhaps someone out there might offer unenlightened folks like me a primer.

    • I believe Turk’s line of thought is about being prepared in the unlikely event that charter schools became nonexistent. What need would the District have if suddenly charters were abolished? Even in that unlikely event, the numbers don’t support the over-building.

      There may be some people who wrongly assume (not saying Turk had this idea) the reason Octorara never reached their enrollment projections was because the growth of charters siphoned off students. That turns out not to be true.

      Another fact is if charters closed tomorrow, not all of those students would go into traditional public schools. At one meeting in which Dr Newcome was being critical of charters, he stated that a fair number (no specific number was given) of students going to charters use to be home-schooled. His complaint was these students once cost the District nothing being home-schooled, but now cost the District $8,000/year tuition to a charter.

  3. Just a word or two of appreciation, to you and all like you, who toil in the fields of blogdom and who try mightily to engage minds, spark discussion, and inspire citizen involvement. Speaking in the broadest sense, it almost doesn’t matter what the issue is, or the ideological perspective you or commenters might bring. It is enough that you few, you hardy and happy band of bloggers, are out there, in the arena, doing what I — and I’m quite sure the Founders — would only think of as God’s work. Thank you. Thank you very much. And please stay the course.

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