Public school enrollment up, private down

Economy, 'lure of the suburbs' to blame, local educators say

Published: Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 1:56 a.m. CDT • Updated: Thursday, Aug. 23, 2012 2:00 a.m. CDT

Sauk Valley Christian Academy in Galt has laid off 3 full-time and two part-time teachers as it deals with a drop in enrollment, from 43 students last year to 30 this year.

Six seniors are finishing high school, but classes for freshmen, sophomores and juniors are not being offered.

It's not the only area private school to see a dip: While many public schools in the Sauk Valley have seen enrollment rise, all private schools in the Twin Cities and one in Dixon have lost students, preliminary figures indicate.

"It's the economy," Sterling Christian Principal Paul Rowe said.

Parents have told him they cannot afford the school's tuition, which is $4,200 a year for K-12 classes and $140 a week for preschool, Rowe said.

William Lemmer is principal at St. Andrew Catholic Grade School in Rock Falls, where enrollment has dropped to 155 from 173 last year.

"A lot of it is, a lot of people don't know what we have to offer," Lemmer said, adding that his school offers "the whole package," including full-day preschool with before care and after care.

Annual tuition at St. Andrew is $2,400 for one student; $3,400 for two; and $3,700 for three or more in K-8. Half-day preschool costs $2,400; whole-day costs $3,000, which includes lunch.

"We work with people," he said. "We understand it's tough times."

St. Mary School in Dixon is the only private school of seven surveyed that had increased enrollment: from 212 last year to 220 this year.

Principal Jean Spohn said she didn't know why other private schools' enrollments are decreasing.

Christ Lutheran School in Sterling lost 8 students, from 150 to 142, which Principal John Kirchhoff attributed to the graduation of a large eighth-grade class. It does not offer high school.

In Dixon, public schools enrollment is up 39 students, from 2,749 to 2,788. Enrollment increased at all schools except Reagan Middle School, which also includes preschoolers, and Jefferson Elementary School. Reagan's enrollment decreased by 17, from 756 to 739. Jefferson's dropped by five, from 382 to 377.

At Sterling Public Schools, enrollment is up 144 students, higher at all schools except Challand Middle School, where it dipped by 29, from 782 to 753.

Rock Falls High School's enrollment is up to 687 this year, compared with 665 last year, an increase of 22 students.

Rock Falls Elementary, which annexed the former Riverdale School district, has increased enrollment by 27 students, not including preschool, from 926 to 953. Enrollment was up at the middle school and at Merrill Elementary, but down by three students at Dillon Elementary.

East Coloma School in Rock Falls saw an increase in enrollment by 18 students from 226 last year to 244 this year.

Kevin Andersen is superintendent at East Coloma.

"Talking with other [public] school districts, everybody seems to be up," he said.

Montmorency School in Rock Falls has seven more students this year, at 310.

Superintendent John Rosenberry said the increase might be the result of better test scores. "Our ISAT scores went through the roof," he said, referring to the Illinois Standard Achievement Test.

Amboy and Morrison public schools have lost students. Amboy dipped from 811 last year to 802 this year, and Morrison schools have 1,097, 40 fewer than last year.

Rural schools, particularly in Lee County, are having a hard time keeping enrollment up because the median age of residents is increasing as many young people leave the area and don't return, Amboy Superintendent Jeff Thake said.

"It's the allure of the suburbs," Thake said. "In Amboy, a lot would love to come back but they need a reason to come back."

By the numbers

Here are preliminary enrollment numbers for local schools.
Amboy Community Unit School District
Amboy High School
This year: 276
Last year: 298
Amboy Junior High School
This year: 235
Last year: 242
Amboy Central Elementary School
This year: 291
Last year: 271
This year's total: 802
Last year's total: 811
Christ Lutheran School in Sterling
This year: 142
Last year: 150
Dixon Public Schools
Dixon High School
This year: 817
Last year: 784
Reagan Middle School (including preschoolers taught at the middle school)
This year: 739
Last year: 756
Jefferson Elementary School
This year: 377
Last year: 382
Lincoln Elementary School
This year: 413
Last year: 400
Washington Elementary School
This year: 442
Last year: 427
Total this year: 2,788
Total last year: 2,749
East Coloma School
This year: 244
Last year: 226
Montmorency School
This year: 310
Last year: 303
Morrison Community Unit District
This year's total: 1,097 (enrollments at individual schools unknown)
Last year's enrollments:
Morrison High School: 347
Morrison Junior High School: 262
Northside Elementary School: 301
Southside Elementary School: 227
Last year total: 1,137
Newman Central Catholic High School
This year: 230
Last year: 250
Rock Falls Elementary School District (numbers do not include preschool)
Rock Falls Middle School
This year: 306
Last year: 305
Merrill Elementary School
This year: 325
Last year: 296
Dillon Elementary School
This year: 322
Last year: 325
This year's total 953.
Last year's total: 926
Rock Falls High School
This year: 687
Last year: 665
Sauk Valley Christian Academy
This year: 30
Last year: 43
St. Andrew Catholic Grade School in Rock Falls
This year: 155
Last year: 173
St. Anne School in Dixon
This year: 118
Last year: 119
Sterling Public Schools
Sterling High School
This year: 1,070
Last year: 978
Challand Middle School
This year: 753
Last year: 782
Washington Elementary School
This year: 382
Last year: 362
Lincoln Elementary School
This year: 352
Last year: 349
Franklin Elementary School
This year: 326
Last year: 289
Jefferson Elementary School
This year: 407
Last year: 386
This year's total: 3,290
Last year's total: 3,146
St. Mary School in Dixon
This year: 220
Last year: 212
St. Mary's School in Sterling
This year: 192
Last year: 197

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