School enrollment continues to slide

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Enrollment in the city schools has seen a slow but steady decrease over the last few years, with a high point of student enrollment of 11,167 in 2000, to a projected 10,021 this year. School officials are expecting that number to continue to go down to a projected 8,823 in 2011. The previous lowest level occurred in 1989, with 9,269 students.

In particular, in class levels from 2006 to the projected enrollment in 2007, the school system seems to be losing the most children in the third grade, with 55 fewer students this year, but shows a gain of 68 students in the first grade. The senior class is the only steady level, with 579 in 12th grade last year, and a projected 579 this year as well.

Although the answers to the differences are not clear cut, housing costs and the amount of affordable housing may play a role in the student numbers.

Theres a variety of things, said School Board member Scott Newsham. An increase in the number of condos in the city and a decrease in affordable housing factor into the equation. Traditionally, more children live in affordable housing than in condos, Newsham said.

A demographic study conducted for Alexandria City Public Schools, published in June 2006, shows the number of apartments under construction at 3,159 individual units, and affordable housing units at 48, yielding a total of 462 students, while the 474 condos under construction will only contribute nine students to the school system.

As of the date this report was written, Potomac Yard has 251 condos approved and is expected to generate only two students, the study noted.

That study also showed a drop in birth rates in 1994, but yet an increase in kindergarten enrollments in 2000, when those children reached the kindergarten age.

A substantial number of children born in the City of Alexandria leave prior to becoming school aged, the study said. City birth rates climbed since 1994.

Many of these student enrollment projections are used in the budgetary process, but will not result in any drastic slashing of school programs. In the long term, facility use is one thing that will be examined, said Newsham, who is also on the ACPS facilities use commission. I expect that will be one item on our agenda, he said.

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