IW school enrollment down

Published 1:49 pm Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Only modest growth expected in 10 years

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

Isle of Wight schools’ latest student registration numbers show a decline in the division’s student population when compared to five years ago, and a recent report issued by the division shows that its enrollment projection numbers will likely remain flat for the next 10 years.

Five years ago, in the fall of 2011, the division as a whole reported 5,519 students enrolled in its nine schools. This fall, that number has decreased to 5,428, a loss of 91 in overall attendance. 

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A study conducted for the county by a consultant agency named FutureThink was presented at a specially-called school board meeting Thursday and found that the division would likely see an enrollment increase of just under 4 percent in the next 10 years, about 200 more students. In gathering its data for its final estimation, the study looked at live birth rates, historical enrollment, community demographics and housing information in the area. {mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

While the division’s middle and elementary schools registered relatively steady numbers this year, the county’s high schools took a noticeable dip.

Smithfield High School, which had been growing steadily until five years ago — increasing by 40 percent in 10 years — reported 1,212 students enrolled this fall, a loss of 99 since 2011.

Windsor High, according to the study, had a decrease of 15, from 505 to 490 students.

The division has seen some marginal growth in its elementary schools.

Carrollton Elementary increased by 36 students (from 588 to 624) in five years, Carrsville by 11 (from 256 to 267) and Hardy by three (from 470 to 473). Westside Elementary currently has three fewer students than it did in 2011 (from 796 to 793).

Smithfield Middle School’s numbers show a loss of 7 (from 610 to 603).

Georgie D. Tyler Middle School reported perhaps the most noticeable increase in its number of students this fall. Formerly Windsor Middle, Tyler rose from a student population of 331 in 2011 to 396 this fall, an increase of 65 students in five years.

As for the reason of the school’s increase, the division does not have just one answer, according to spokesperson Lynn Briggs.

One factor, according to Briggs, is certainly the new the middle school facilities, which opened in 2014.

“There’s a lot to be said for people judging a book by its cover,” said Briggs.

Briggs also cited the school’s positive testing data as a reason for the growth.

“None of those are overwhelming contributors, but probably added up little by little,” said Briggs.

Windsor Elementary, however, did not see the same type of flourishing, and registered a sharp decline of 82 students since 2011 (from 652 to 570).

Due to damage from a small contained fire that was sparked by a laptop

computer overnight at Carrsville Elementary last week, Carrsville’s 267 students

were temporarily transferred to Windsor Elementary for the remainder of this week.

Despite Carrsville’s relatively small numbers and Windsor’s decline this year,

the division is not considering closing down Carrsville permanently, according to


“Four days was something we could do, but if it had been a longer term solution, I don’t think this would have worked,” Briggs said of the temporary transfer of Carrsville students to Windsor this week, which, according to Briggs, has

required some difficult maneuvering in order to accomplish.

As for the FutureThink report, Isle of Wight County Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton said he was not surprised by the numbers.

“That’s not a lot of growth, but it’s not an exact science,” Thornton said of the report’s projection, which showed an approximate 4 percent growth during the coming 10 years.

Thornton said the numbers will continue to be looked at closely and another study should be issued again five years from now.

“The (housing) development’s going to start hitting more and we’re going to

have a better feel,” Thornton said.

If the FutureThink’s study is accurate, only Westside Elementary will be

over its building capacity in 10 years.

In a discussion of capital improvement after Future- Think’s report, the board continued to mull over the possibly of opening a new elementary school in the northern end of the county in the future.

“Based on those numbers, I would say a new northern end elementary is the next big project that needs to be built,” Thornton said to the board.

A new elementary school would cost roughly $22 million, according to the board.  {/mprestriction}