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August 8, 2013

School enrollments continue to decline

Declining enrollment trend expected to continue

Statewide school enrollment has been on the decline for the last several years — and this year isn’t expected to be much different.

“There is a clear trend,” said Judith Fillion, director of the division of program support with the New Hampshire Department of Education. “We won’t know until September, but it’s especially expected in public schools.”

The decreasing enrollment comes as no surprise to local school administrators.

“We are right where we projected,” Londonderry Superintendent Nate Greenberg said. “But we anticipated it and were able to budget appropriately.”

Greenberg said he expects 4,550 students to walk through Londonderry school doors later this month. Last year, the district had 4,656 students. In Greenberg’s first year in 2000, they had more than 6,000 students.

“The biggest reason is the housing bust,” he said. “People who normally would have sold their home to downsize held on to homes. We didn’t get that housing turnover to bring new students into the district.”

Londonderry is just one of many communities throughout the state experiencing declining enrollment.

In 2003-2004, there were 203,359 students enrolled in public school; last year, there were only 181,900.

“There’s a lack of young new families coming to New Hampshire,” said Michael Cote, program specialist with the office of student data management with the Department of Education.

In Derry, they are seeing that firsthand this year. They are well short of their projected number of kindergarten students and will need to make adjustments if that doesn’t change before the beginning of school.

“It’s a significant decline,” Derry Superintendent Laura Nelson said. “We have an open kindergarten position that we may not end up filling.”

Nelson said she was trying to figure out why this year’s registration was so low.

“We’re not really sure why that is,” she said. “(We’re) not quite certain if a lot of people have moved. We are trying to work out the numbers.”

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