GHENT–Columbia County’s public school enrollment declined 7.7% between 2009 and 2013, according to data in the New York State Education Department’s Student Information Repository System (SIRS). It’s a trend predicted by demographers and school consultants for several years, but the latest figures offer a comprehensive snapshot of the shrinking student population throughout the county.
The county’s six regular public school districts—Chatham, Germantown, Hudson, Kinderhook, New Lebanon, and Taconic Hills—in kindergarten through 12th grade combined–had 7,818 students near the beginning of the 2009-10 school year. Four years later the total number of public school students was 7,219. That’s an enrollment drop of 599 in four years, an average drop of almost 150 students a year.
The state figures do not indicate where students have gone. The county’s population over roughly the same period also decreased, but by less than 2%, or just under 1,000 residents.
In every district, of the lowest enrollment over the four years occurred in 2013-14 school year. The greatest percentage enrollment decline in this period happened in the New Lebanon (16.4%) and Taconic Hills (9.1%) districts. Hudson experienced the smallest percentage decline (5.2%).
By contrast, however, enrollment increased for students identified as “Latino” and “Asian/ Pacific.” In five of the districts—Chatham, Germantown, Hudson, New Lebanon, and Taconic Hills—between 2009 and 2013, the Latino enrollment increased 46% and the Asian/Pacific enrollment increased 13%. Meanwhile, in those districts, the African-American student population declined 21%, the white student population declined 14%, with both groups showing much bigger declines that the overall drop in enrollment.
Table 1 gives the total student enrollment, in kindergarten through 12th grade, by year and school, in all six districts, from 2009 through 2013. These counts, according to SIRS documentation, are “typically” measured in early October. They exclude pre-kindergarteners, when present, but include the few students labeled “ungraded elementary” and “ungraded secondary.”
Table 2 lists the enrollment size of the student cohort entering kindergarten in 2009, from the fall of 2009 through the fall of 2013, when most of its members were in 4th grade.
Table 3 gives the student enrollment, from 2009 through 2013 by race. It includes only five districts: Chatham, Germantown, Hudson, New Lebanon, and Taconic Hills. The Education Department says an aspect of the Kinderhook data needs clarification.