For the past five years student enrollment numbers have dropped in the Nye County School District (NCSD). This year, the overall count was down by 164 students, falling in 10 of 17 schools.
At $7,038 in state funding per student, the impact to the district could be as much as a $1,154,230 hit to next year’s budget.
Nye County School District Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kim Friel said that district staff and the board of trustees look at the enrollment numbers 10 times a year and make adjustments in budget allocations as a result.
“Still, any money lost is money we don’t have to spend on the students of Nye County and that’s never where we want to be,” she said.
Friel said, “They are disappointing numbers and always a concern, but we are coming to understand (the reasons for) them. In response, we are upping our game to do all we can to insure that the kids that are here receive the best possible education and experience so that we are graduating more college-ready students each year.”
The primary reason given for low enrollment is lack of jobs in rural Nevada, which sometimes forces families to relocate.
Also, the district’s alternative education program, Pathways is down 40 students. Amargosa is down 40 as well. Manse Elementary lost 29 students. Floyd and Hafen Elementary schools were each down 25 students. Rosemary Clarke Middle School is down 19 students. Beatty Elementary is also down 18 students. Tonopah High School is down by 17 and Beatty High School is down eight. Gabbs is down five students.
All is not gloomy in the report, however. Even though the overall numbers were down, eight of the district’s schools experienced increased enrollment. Duckwater in rural northern Nevada is up three students. Pahrump Valley High School added five students. Pahrump Early Children’s Education is up eight students. All Round Mountain schools report a total of 10 new students. J.G. Johnson Elementary added 12 and Tonopah (both elementary and middle schools) added 25 students total.
Asked about the increases in some area schools, Friel said, “We don’t really have a clue, but virtual classes and independent learning options along with being able to take college preparatory courses, plus adding new teaching techniques, all are popular. It could be any of those reasons or things we aren’t yet aware of.”
By contrast, both Clark and Washoe counties have increased count for 2013. Figures for Clark are not yet firm, but for Washoe County, the enrollment for 2013 is up by .33 percent. Again, increased opportunity for finding is work is cited.
Nationally, low enrollment numbers are of concern. The number of kids not attending or dropping out is accelerating in every state, especially those in rural areas. Alaska, Montana, Wisconsin, Vermont and Pennsylvania, and all southern states are losing far more students each year than Nevada. Surprisingly, Wyoming and North Dakota are seeing a rise in student enrollment, due to gas and oil-drilling jobs being in abundance.
“We saw all the schools working hard to get kids enrolled this year, by neighbor-to-neighbor contact, parent volunteers, the health fair in August and through building a culture of the value of school we call the ‘golden ticket,’ to a positive future. It is difficult to survive in the world without at least a high school diploma, and we’re very passionate about getting that message out to everyone,” Friel said.
The school district now offers summer school for those who might be one or a few credits short of graduating so they can continue their education without bouncing back.
Do the virtual and charter schools cut into the public school student base? Friel said, “Not in Nye County so much, but it does take students who prefer that learning medium, as does home-schooling, and we just work to step up our game in a way that makes the public school offerings competitive.”
Pahrump Valley High School now offers a nursing program in partnership with the hospital, as well as advanced placement courses so kids are ready to get into college and a career, along with a national-level food service course of study.
“Each school has their own best offering. Beatty has the best auto-repair program, Round Mountain has the best agriculture education, Tonopah the best arts and food programs and so on. Each school has their own highly successful areas,” said Friel.
“We are very excited about our new teachers and their exciting strategies and plans, we are seeing new education models roll out successfully and we are daily, in every way, communicating to each child that they can be a success, and we’re doing everything we can to support that reality,” said Friel.