Student Enrollment Falling in Washington County Schools

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WASHINGTON COUNTY-- Washington District School Officials said they're seeing a significant drop in student enrollment.

They believe it has to do with the lack of jobs in the county, and not just this year. The district has lost about 200 students the last few years.

Monday marked the end of summer vacation for Washington County students. They returned to class, but some familiar faces may no longer be around.

"Over the last couple of years, maybe three years, we have seen a slight decline in our enrollment,” explained Washington County School District Director of Administrative Services Pat Collins. “We were averaging just around just under 3, 500 students. And we have seen a decline each year in our enrollment."

After updating their enrollment numbers, the district now has close to 3,300 students. A problem that may have to do with the high unemployment in the area.

"I think some families have moved to find jobs, to secure jobs,” she said. However, not all schools are suffering.

"We see students come in and go out, so its about the same amount here at Chipley High School," said Chipley High School Guidance Counselor Tiffany McKinney.

Even though enrollment at Chipley High School is the same, Collins said she hopes the downward trend isn't long lasting. She hopes the changes that are coming to the county will help improve enrollment.

"We're building a new Kate Smith Elementary School. We're really excited about that venture that we have, and we're anticipating that, that will create a strong interest with parents," explained Collins.

The lower numbers won't cause anyone to lose their jobs, but Collins said the district will lose money. The state pays the district based on the number of students enrolled.

Just like Bay County officials, Collins said the numbers could fluctuate quite a bit during the course of the school year.