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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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