GHENT–Public school enrollment in Columbia County has been dropping steadily since no later than 2000, according to the latest state Education Department enrollment data. The latest data considered final are through October 2016.
In round numbers the total enrollment for the county’s six districts fell from 9,600 students in the 2000-01 school year to 6,800 in the 2016-17 year, a drop of 29%.
For individual districts, the drop in enrollment during that time frame ranged between 27% and 38%.
For all schools, enrollment has steadily dropped from each year to the next, with a few exceptions.
Two of those exceptions occurred in 2016, when both Hudson and Taconic Hills had slightly more students than in the year before. And while preliminary figures for the last school year suggest enrollment increases, it is too early to tell whether enrollment has really bottomed out.
The districts’ official school year runs from July 1 to June 30.
The order of district sizes in the county has remained nearly consistent throughout the 17-year period from the beginning of this century. But the distinction of being the district with the largest enrollment has alternated between Hudson and Kinderhook. The districts with the lowest enrollment have been Germantown and New Lebanon. Throughout the 17 years, those two districts have had less than 1,000 students each, while the four others have had over 1,000 each.
Enrollment trends affect districts in many ways, especially as they influence estimates of future enrollment. School districts use those estimates to make decisions about everything from the size of school buildings to staffing and transportation requirements, as well as annual school budgets. The Hudson and Ichabod Crane districts have each closed two school buildings in the last decade.
The table shows enrollment, combined and individually, for the county’s six regular public school districts for 2016, 2000, and selected years in between.