Stanislaus County public schools expected to continue losing students

jnsbranti@modbee.comDecember 18, 2013 

— Stanislaus County public school enrollments have fallen since the recession began, and state demographers don’t expect student gains anytime soon.

Enrollment peaked during the 2007-08 school year at nearly 107,000 students in Stanislaus public schools. But this year, only about 105,853 youngsters are enrolled, and fewer students than that are expected a decade from now.

California Department of Finance demographers expect Stanislaus enrollments to decline each of the next five years, dropping to just 104,619 students by 2018. Enrollments are projected to start picking up a bit in 2019, growing to an estimated 105,338 by the 2022-23 school year.

If that turns out to be true, Stanislaus will have 1,634 fewer students a decade from now than it did before the housing bubble burst and the recession began in 2007. When – if ever – county enrollments will fully recover is not known because state number crunchers don’t project out that far.

Stanislaus’ elementary schools are expected to lose the most students in the years to come. This school year, about 73,456 kindergarten-through-eighth-grade youngsters attend public campuses in the county. That’s expected to plummet by 2,259 children by 2020. Depending on which school districts decline the most, losses of that magnitude could force closure of some elementary campuses.

High school enrollments, which have fallen the most since the recession, are expected to start increasing within the next few years.

In 2007, Stanislaus’ public high schools had 33,694 students. This year there are only about 32,397, which means nearly 1,300 teens have been lost since the economy collapsed.

High school enrollments are expected to fall again next year, then start slowly climbing. By the 2022-23 school year, 33,033 high school students are expected to enroll.

What’s happened to public school enrollments in Stanislaus is not very different than what’s gone on statewide. California’s student enrollment peaked at nearly 6.28 million in 2006, and it since has fallen to 6.22 million (a loss of about 60,000 students). It’s expected to continue dropping the next four years, then start gradually increasing. It is California’s high school enrollments – not the elementary or junior high – that are expected in rise.

The state’s Department of Finance issues student enrollment projections every year to help school districts plan for the future.

Bee staff writer J.N. Sbranti can be reached at jnsbranti@modbee.com or (209) 578-2196.

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