Meadville Tribune

Local News

September 14, 2008

Area schools see trend of dropping enrollment

09/15/08 — If you build them, they will come.

Or will they?

No one hopes that is more true than officials at all three school districts in Crawford County that have invested tens of millions of dollars in renovations, curriculum improvements and the latest technology, only to see student populations tailing off over the past five years. Drops ranging from 1.6 percent to a whopping 9 percent.

Conneaut School District seems to be in the least desirable position, losing 254 students — 8.91 percent — since 2004.

Ironically, the district celebrated the culmination of its district-wide building renovation project in July following the completion of the administration office.

There are a variety of factors that contribute to the loss of students, Superintendent Richard Rossi pointed out, but said the economy is the most significant.

“During the late 90s the tool and die industry in Crawford County was probably the number one employer,” Rossi said. “But about six years ago we started to see a decline within that industry, and with many of the employees living within the boundaries of the Conneaut School District, we experienced (a drop because) many families relocated to other areas for employment.”

Mike Dolecki, superintendent of Crawford Central School District, also said there was a 1.6 percent decline, but said the change was nominal and seemed to be in sync with the general decline in the area population, which, according to the Center for Rural Pennsylvania Web site, the county has experienced a 1.1 percent drop since 2000 (from 90,366 in 2000 to 89,389 in 2006).

Superintendent Richard Borchilo of PENNCREST School District, acknowledged the impact of the economy, but had a different opinion as to why his district has seen more than a 5 percent reduction in the student body over five years.

“In some cases, parents are exercising their right to school choice,” Borchilo said. “They may elect to home school, home tutor or enroll them in cyber services or private or parochial schools.”

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