November 24, 2014

Elyria
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Superintendent confident enrollment won’t decline too much for new high school

LORAIN — When the new Lorain High School opens in 2016, Superintendent Tom Tucker said he’s confident it won’t be too big for the number of students who attend it.

Tucker

Nonetheless, enrollment continues to decline. Tucker said at Wednesday’s groundbreaking for the new school that the number of students dropped from about 7,400 in June to about 7,000 now, according to unofficial estimates. School officials previously said enrollment was about 7,500 during the 2011-12 school year. The Ohio Department of Education has delayed releasing complete enrollment figures for school districts while the state auditor’s office investigates allegations that some school districts cooked the books regarding attendance to improve test scores.

Lorain Schools’ population decreased by about 3,000 over the last decade. Tucker attributed much of the latest decrease to the district dropping full-day kindergarten in June as part of $7.3 million in cuts to a $12 million deficit. Dropping full-day kindergarten saved $737,000.

Tucker said parents with multiple children in the district seeking full-day kindergarten often find it more convenient to remove all their children from the district. Because the decline is districtwide, Tucker said it won’t cause more teacher layoffs.

“If all the students went to a single building, you could do it,” he said.

About 98 teachers were among the 182 employees laid off in June. Twenty-six teachers were recalled due to retirements and to meet teacher union requirements for student-teacher ratios.

Tucker said he’ll wait until after the election to develop a plan to increase enrollment. The November ballot includes Issue 39, a seven-year, 4.8-mill property tax levy that would raise about $3.12 million annually for the district. If passed, Tucker said he would use some of the money to reinstitute full-day kindergarten.

Tucker, appointed in August, said a long-term recruitment and retention plan will be developed next year along with a plan to increase low state test scores.

“Hopefully, we’ll start seeing some people return,” he said. “We’ve got a lot to offer and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.