Eastern Panhandle school enrollment growth slows with economy

October 22, 2008|By DAVE McMILLION

EASTERN PANHANDLE, W.VA. -- The slowing economy has created a new effect in West Virginia's Eastern Panhandle - softening school enrollment numbers.

After years of growing up to about 700 students at a time - keeping school officials scrambling to open new facilities - the rate of student enrollments is slacking off this year and it even dropped in Morgan County, school officials in the three Eastern Panhandle counties said Tuesday.

In Morgan County, enrollment this year is 2,693, down 26 students from last year's enrollment of 2,719, said Elaine Mitchell, spokeswoman for the school system.

"It kind of caught us off guard when we saw this drop," Mitchell said.

Mitchell said Morgan County Schools officials were talking about the drop and said it might be caused by the slowing economy, which is causing fewer people to move into the area.


Although Jefferson County Schools has 104 more students this year, the increase is not as great as in the previous year, when the district saw an additional 256 students, Superintendent of Schools Susan Wall said.

Wall said this year's enrollment in Jefferson County is at 8,403 students, up from last year's enrollment of 8,299.

Jefferson County's enrollment in the 2006-07 school year was 8,043, Wall said.

Pete Dougherty, president of the Jefferson County Board of Education, said he thought the local school district could see a drop in enrollment this year.

Dougherty said his prediction was based on the fact that real estate sales have been extremely slow in Jefferson County, resulting in less people moving into the county.

Dougherty said the softening student enrollment will allow the school system to catch up and deal with space needs in the school system.

In Berkeley County, school officials said Monday that enrollment there has increased by 362 students, but it was the smallest increase in six years.

The enrollment increase last year was 546 students and there were three gains of about 700 before that, said Berkeley County Schools Deputy Superintendent Frank Aliveto, adding that the county's student population is at 17,320.

Eastern Panhandle school enrollment

Number of students

Berkeley County

2007-08: 16,958

2008-09: 17,320

Jefferson County

2007-08: 8,299

2008-09: 8,403

Morgan County

2007-08: 2,719

2008-09: 2,693

Sources: County school districts

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