Total enrollment in the Alamance-Burlington school system declined by 1,109 students, from 22,851 students during the 2019-20 school year to 21,742 students for the current, 2020-21 school year, representing a decline of nearly 5 percent and the lowest overall enrollment recorded in ABSS schools in 15 years.
The decline in enrollment in ABSS schools for the current 2020-21 school year represents a reversal of years of steady increases.
OTHER ABSS NEWS COVERAGE IN THIS WEEK’S EDITION & ONLINE:
Almost 40% of ABSS high school and middle school students failed at least one course during first grading period last fall:
ABSS parents voice continuing concerns about inadequacy of remote, online-only, instruction – and its impact on their children:
ABSS officials had previously pointed to growing enrollment in urging voters to approve an historic, $150 million school bond package during the general election in 2018 to fund the construction of a seventh high school, as well as expansions and/or renovations at eight existing ABSS schools. Voters ultimately approved the $150 bond package for ABSS by margin of nearly 70 percent in 2018, along with a $39.6 million bond package for Alamance Community College, whose officials also cited enrollment growth as the primary driver behind the need for additional space.
The 2020-21 school year marks the fourth time in which enrollment has declined since the former Burlington city and Alamance County school systems merged in 1996 (see accompanying chart at the end of article).
Enrollment among the three largest ethnic groups – white, black, and Hispanic students – which comprise the majority of the student population in ABSS schools has also declined across the board this year.
The number of white students enrolled in ABSS schools has steadily declined over the last two decades, based on the school system’s annual enrollment reports. White enrollment has declined for the 22nd year in a row, both as a percentage of overall enrollment and actual headcounts.
During the first post-merger school year, in 1997-98, there were 12,538 white students, representing 67.50 percent of the total enrollment of 19,214 students in ABSS schools. With 8,763 white students enrolled at the end of the first month of the 2020-21 school year, that demographic group now accounts for 40.3 percent of the total of 21,742 students enrolled in ABSS schools (see chart).
There are 835 fewer white students (for a total of 8,763 white students) enrolled in ABSS schools this year than a year ago, when 9,598 white students were enrolled at the end of the first month of the 2019-20 school year.
On the other hand, enrollment of black students had remained stable and/or increased every year since the first school year after the merger, from 4,998 in 1997-98 to 5,327 students in 2019-20.
However, the school system’s latest figures reveal that the percentage of black students enrolled in ABSS schools has declined by 2.10 percentage points since the first school year that followed the merger. In 1997-98, they accounted for 26 percent of total enrollment in ABSS schools; for the 2020-21 school year, black students represent 24.10 percent of the school system’s total enrollment of 21,742 students.
The number of black students enrolled in ABSS schools also shrank by 87 students this year, from 5,327 black students in 2019-20 to 5,240 black students enrolled at the end of the first month of the 2020-21 school year.
Meanwhile, Hispanic enrollment in ABSS has generally continued on its upward trajectory, increasing by a total of 27.2 percentage points over the 22 years since the first school year that followed the merger of the former city and county school systems. During the first post-merger school year, there were 850 Hispanic students enrolled in ABSS, representing 4.40 percent of the total student population. This school year, there are 6,052 Hispanic students enrolled, representing 27.84 percent of the total enrollment in ABSS schools (see chart).
But the number of Hispanic students enrolled in ABSS schools also shrank this year. There are 202 fewer Hispanic students (for a total of 6,052 students) enrolled in ABSS schools this year than a year ago, when 6,254 Hispanic students were enrolled at the end of the first month of the 2019-20 school year.
Earlier this school year, ABSS finance director Jeremy Teetor had estimated that enrollment would decline by about 300 students due to the opening of the county’s fourth charter school, which opened in September 2020. Alamance Community School, the fourth charter school, opened for the 2020-21 school year with a mix of online and in-person classes.
Teetor confirmed for The Alamance News this week that his earlier estimated loss of 300 students to the new charter school had turned out to be accurate.
Dr. Jean Maness, director of elementary education for ABSS, said her division had experienced the largest decline in enrollment at the kindergarten level. Because state law does not require children to be enrolled in school until age seven, parents can choose to hold their children back, which she said some parents had opted for this year. Some elementary school principals have reported that parents decided to home-school their children this year but plan to send them back to ABSS once the coronavirus pandemic eases, Maness told the newspaper this week.
There were 2,170 students enrolled in home schools within Alamance County as of June 30, 2020, according to the latest figures available from the state Division of Non-Public Education. The division reported last July that its website had crashed due to a surge in interest among parents wanting to home-school their children for the 2020-21 school year.
ABSS has enrolled fewer pre-kindergarten students this year than in previous years, though pre-k enrollment is calculated separately from that for K-12 students, Maness said Wednesday.
Revonda Johnson, director of secondary education for ABSS, said she and other school officials have heard that some students moved away due to family obligations, financial hardship, and job changes brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.
At the elementary school level, white students represent the largest share of enrollment (3,696 students, or 38.54 percent), followed by Hispanic students (2,619 students or 37.31 percent of total elementary school enrollment). Black students represent the smallest proportion of the total elementary school population, with 2,427 black students comprising 25.31 percent of the total enrollment of 9,590 students enrolled at the 20 ABSS elementary schools (see accompanying chart).
White students also represent the largest share of enrollment (2,116 white students or 39.37 percent) at the seven ABSS middle schools. Hispanic students again make up the second-largest proportion of middle school enrollment, with a total of 1,552 students (28.88 percent). Black students represent the smallest proportion of the total middle school population in ABSS, with a total of 1,323 black middle school students comprising 24.62 percent of the total of 5,374 students enrolled at the seven middle schools.
White students also represent the largest demographic at the six ABSS high schools and the Alamance-Burlington Early/Middle College housed on ACC’s main campus in Graham. There are currently 2,930 white students enrolled at the high schools and the early/middle college, accounting for 43.46 percent of total high school enrollment, followed by Hispanic students (1,877 students or 27.84 percent). Black students round out the smallest proportion of enrollment at the high school level, with 1,483 black students comprising 22 percent of the total enrollment of 6,742 students at the high school level.
ABSS schools that are situated in the eastern, southern, and western corners of the county continue to have generally whiter student populations, while schools in Burlington and Graham continue to have larger proportions of black and Hispanic student enrollment (see accompanying charts).
There are currently 13 ABSS schools in which white students comprise more than half of the student body: Alexander Wilson, A.O., Garrett, B. Everett Jordan, E.M. Holt, E.M. Yoder, Elon, and Sylvan Elementary schools; Southern and Western Middle schools; Southern and Western High schools; and the alternative school, Ray Street Academy in Graham, based on the school system’s latest enrollment figures.
Whites now represent the minority of students enrolled at 23 ABSS schools: Garrett, Eastlawn, Grove Park, Newlin, Haw River, Highland, Hillcrest, Smith, North Graham, Pleasant Grove, Andrews, South Graham, and South Mebane Elementary schools; Broadview, Graham, Hawfields, Turrentine, and Woodlawn Middle schools; and the AB Early/Middle College, Graham, Cummings, and Williams High schools.
Hispanic students make up the majority of students enrolled at two ABSS elementary schools (Haw River and Andrews Elementary schools); one middle school (Broadview); and one high school (Cummings).
Black students fall short of the majority (50 percent or greater) of students enrolled at the 35 ABSS schools this year, based on the school system’s latest enrollment figures. There are six elementary schools with the highest percentages of black student enrollment (Grove Park, Hillcrest, Newlin, Eastlawn, North Graham, and South Mebane Elementary schools); two middle schools (Turrentine and Broadview Middle schools); and one high school, Cummings High School in east Burlington.