A new study released by the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority confirmed what many Granite State school officials already knew.
The state is seeing a significant drop in student enrollment, affecting educational and housing needs of communities.
The study shows New Hampshire school enrollment dropped by 21,600 students between 2000 and 2010 — a decrease of 4.6 percent, even though the state’s total population increased 6.5 percent during that same time period.
The enrollment drop comes at a time when the number of housing units in the state increased by 44,300.
While it’s no surprise the enrollment decrease is linked to a drop in the national birth rate, it’s prompting communities to take another look at their school facility needs.
Salem learned last week that continuing declines in its student enrollment could have an impact on plans to renovate three aging elementary schools.
Last year, some residents criticized a proposal by School Board member Bernard Campbell to close Haigh School, saying it would have a detrimental impact on the community and education. Campbell remains convinced that shuttering the school is the right move in wake of the drop in enrollment.
School Superintendent Michael Delahanty said the School Board will have to decide whether renovating the three schools is still the best option. A new report by the New Hampshire School Administrators Association shows the district will lose more than 200 students over the next several years, he said.
The projected enrollment drop follows a steady decline over the last three years, according to district statistics. While there were 4,828 students in the district in 2009-2010, that number dropped to 4,612 students in 2010-2011 and then to 4,320.
The majority of school districts are seeing the same trend, according to Jane Law, spokeswoman for the New Hampshire Housing Finance Authority.
All but 31 of New Hampshire’s 161 school districts saw a drop in enrollment, the study said. Only eight districts added 100 or more students.