Our Opinion: It’s been falling for years

We would love to believe.

Or even like to.

Just what will come from the study on the Warren County School District’s (gradual) enrollment decline, we don’t know.

But what Davis Demographics told the school board on Monday, that the sky isn’t falling, is difficult to, well, believe.

It’s been falling for years.

Looking at recent numbers (“recent trends in the district”), the board was told enrollment will continue to decline, but only at a trickle.

According to the projection, there will be about 115 fewer students in the district in 2027 than there were in 2017.

We wonder what the studies were spitting out 20 years ago and, since then, enrollment has dropped from 7,031 to 4,312. It was 8,876 in 1980!

That ghastly drop has forced the administration and the board to seriously discuss and even take action on elementary school consolidation over the years.

Yet, we still have four high schools and continue to pump money into each, as well as raise taxes to sustain them.

Board member Arthur Stewart was a voice of reason on Monday when he asked, “What makes us think the big decline is over? What’s different today that causes our line to be horizontal?”

“We could go through and make some estimates based on what has happened the last 20 years,” Senior School Planner Lorne Woods answered. “That’s not our methodology. The area’s declining, yeah. We don’t see the sky falling.”

The study considered a few years of student populations, he said, not 20.

“I’d rather look at what’s happening with your actual student population. The last two census were poorly reported.”

How about the chart above that shows the student populations by year since 2010, but also shows 1980, 1990, 2000, and 2006, when elementary schools were consolidated?

“The economic environment is not conducive to keeping children or young adults here,” he added. “You have a community that’s perpetually getting older.”

Exactly.

So, again, as Mr. Stewart asked:

“What makes us think the big decline is over? What’s different today that causes our line to be horizontal?”

We have NOT been sailing by with four district high schools (along with Tidioute Charter and Warren County Christian). Our student population has declined to the point we can’t even field school football teams with relative ease. We are struggling to keep four high schools now. What is “only” losing 115 students in 10 years going to do?

And that is a big “only.”

Woods said, himself, “Sure enough, there is no (real estate) development.”

He also said, “Young families are having kids here and then moving on later.” But “there’s no fire to put out.” We will only lose 115 students in 10 years.

We would love to believe.

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