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Public, private schools take different roads in enrollment

Features Editor

With the beginning of the academic year a week old, public and private school officials have taken their first survey of enrollment numbers for the 2002-03 term.

Both Troy City and Pike County school systems have experienced an increase in enrollment numbers this school year.

Hank Jones, superintendent of the Troy City Schools, called his system’s increase "insignificant," but "very significant" was the term Linda Steed, a member of the county school board, used to describe the increase in enrollment in the county system.

The numbers for the Troy City schools showed only a small increase in student population, from 2,330 in the school year 2001-2002 to 2,361 this year.

Jones said the increase is a positive sign for the city system but it isn’t significant enough to require changes in scheduling or programs.

The increase in numbers was a very positive sign for the Pike County School System after having lost a

teacher unit this school year due to a decrease in enrollment in the 2000-2001 school year.

"Enrollment one year affects the following year," Steed said, adding that an increase of 109 students this year will make a difference in the amount of state funding for the 2003-2004 school year. "It will also make a difference in the amount of money our system receives from sales tax. Sales tax money is divided between the county and city schools systems and it’s based on the percentage of enrollment. An increase in enrollment is a good sign."

The Pike County School System showed an increase in the number of students from 2,190 in 2001-2002 to 2,299 this year.

Terry Casey, principal of Pike County High School, said his school has enrolled between 35 and 40 new students.

"They are kids who have moved into our area, and they’ve come from Ozark, Troy, Greenville and Florida," he said. "They have been spread out, grade wise, and we haven’t had to make any adjustments to accommodate them. I expect we’ll continue to get students until after Labor Day. If we get as many as 75 or 80 new students, we would have to go to the board and ask for another teacher, but I don’t think that will happen."

Pike County High School is the site of the business and finance academy which will be "full blown" this year, Casey said.

"We have about 16 or 17 junior and senior students from Charles Henderson enrolled in the academy," he said. "And, we have about 38 of our students signed up for the prerequisite class and 23 signed up for first year accounting, which is a prerequisite class. So, we should have a big group to apply for the academy next year.

Academies are proving to be popular among the students in both the county and city school systems.

"The Culinary Arts Academy is filled this year and we have five students from the county schools enrolled in the academy," said Bobby Lee, vice principal of Charles Henderson High School. "Our enrollment includes a higher number of students in honors classes this year and large freshman and sophomore classes."

Enrollment at Banks Primary and Middle schools is holding steady, but the schools are moving ahead with new programming, said Jackie Hall, principal.

"The middle school is offering pre-algebra this year and an early literacy program has been implemented at the primary school. The program is a way of diagnosing students’ needs and prescribing activities that will improve their reading and writing skills."

The literacy program is a highly individualized program for K-3.

While the enrollment in the public schools is inching up, enrollment in the private schools is falling slightly.

The numbers at Pike Liberal Arts School are constant, but numbers at Covenant Christian and New Life Christian Academy are dipping.

Pike Liberal Arts’ enrollment is hovering around 450 with the reinstitution of the K4 program. The number in last year’s eighth grade class has increased, making it necessary to split the class into two ninth grade classes this year. All grades now have two classes with the exception of juniors and seniors.

New Life Christian’s numbers are down, only slightly from 70 last year to 65 this year. Covenant Christian had dropped from 82 a year ago to 68 this year.

However, there is no concern on the part of officials from either school that the decrease is the beginning of a downward trend.