School board learns more about declining enrollment

Enrollment applications at charter schools in the NOLA Public Schools District — including new students and those looking to transfer — fell nearly 30% between the 2019-20 school year and the school year. 2021-2022, according to a report presented to the Orléans Public Schools Board on Thursday. Although some of this can be attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic and the upcoming school year has seen a slight upturn, officials and experts believe the overall trend will be downward in coming years. , following a slowdown in the city’s population growth. over the past decade, and a more recent decline in recent years.

School board members heard the report of declining enrollment at their Thursday night meeting, part of a process that NOLA public schools officials called a district “adjustment,” which could include more city charter school closures and consolidations.

New Schools for New Orleans, a nonprofit that works to improve education in the city, prepared the report. Holly Reid, Head of Policy and Portfolio, introduced him to the Board.

Among the key findings, one-third of the city’s 49 elementary schools accounted for nearly half of the demand for kindergarten spaces. And just two of the district’s 27 high schools account for nearly half of the demand for ninth-grade seats.

Other schools, Reid said, may struggle to fill their rosters, which can make running a school more financially difficult because funding is allocated on a per student basis.

“We know that understaffed schools make instruction and operations more expensive per student,” Reid said.

“It’s not unique to the district,” board chairman Olin Parker said, referring to a recent New York Times article.

Four NOLA public school district schools are closing at the end of this school year. Two did not win new charter contracts for academic and other reasons. And two other charters voluntarily closed after the district announced its resizing work due to low enrollment.

Although the report did not make specific recommendations on which schools to close or consolidate, it did offer an in-depth analysis of enrollment trends in the city, the state of school facilities, and whether the he condition of a school affected the application for registration.

Ten percent of the seats are already vacant in the schools in the district. And Reid noted a drop in the birth rate and a decline in the number of students entering kindergarten in recent years, likely contributing significantly to further declines in enrollment at all grade levels in the near future.

“We expect these trends to continue and affect high schools in the years to come,” she said.

Registration

The report measured the number of applications in kindergarten and ninth grade. Schools in the city largely consist of primary and secondary schools from kindergarten to grade 8. These “entry” years offer key information about new enrollments.

Half of the total kindergarten demand is in 13 of the city’s 49 elementary schools, the report concludes. At the secondary level, two high schools account for almost half of the initial requests from 9th grade candidates.

The NSNO used registration data from the district’s centralized NOLA-PS Common Application Process (NCAP) registration system, formerly known as OneApp.

Demand for new placements – new entries and transfers – in the city’s centralized admissions system fell from 13,002 for the 2019-2020 school year to 9,201 for the current school year, a decline of nearly by 30%. The pandemic could have affected those numbers, Reid said. New placement applications rose slightly for the latest round of applications – for the 2022-23 school year – to 9,609. This could be partly due to the fact that three of the city’s top performing schools joined the system common enrollment this year and because four schools are closing and these students must select a new school.

The 13 least-demanded elementary schools “pose the greatest future risk of declining enrollment as birth rates continue to decline,” the report concludes. Again, Reid said, this could make it difficult to balance a school budget, with extracurricular and other ancillary activities being the first things to cut.

The report also analyzed facilities based on their condition by calculating the cost of major repairs a school would need over the next ten years and dividing schools into four categories based on those costs. About 19,000 students attend schools in what the NSNO considers “Tier 1” facilities, which require the least capital labor, while more than 9,000 attend a “Tier 4” facility, which requires the most capital. work.

“We did not find a strong relationship between (registration) demand and facility conditions,” Reid said.

Reid said the group had four recommendations for the district moving forward, which included more publicly available data and analytics on an annual basis and worked to determine how to measure and define “quality of ‘school”. The quality of the school, she said, was key to understanding the enrollment demand.

Asked how the NSNO conducted its work, Reid said the group modeled its report after analyzes conducted by similarly sized cities that have seen declining enrollment in recent years.

The report drew some criticism from some board members.

Council member Ethan Ashley said the group should have consulted with council members and gathered community feedback before drafting a report that could influence the city’s schools overhaul.

He also called for any future work to include data disaggregated by race, gender and other subgroups.

Reid said the NSNO does not have access to this level of personalized student data, but the district itself will.

Other board members have called for academic data to be incorporated into such analysis.

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