Fairbanks enrollment continues slide

Posted: Wednesday, November 07, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Enrollment in Fairbanks public schools has continued to fall, with about 275 fewer students attending this year than last.

According to official counts, the equivalent of 15,274 full-time students are attending schools in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District.

This year's decrease follows a downward trend since enrollment peaked at 16,431 students in 1997, according to Nick Stayrook, the district's director of program planning and evaluation.

The district has been losing about 250 to 300 students each year, Stayrook said.

The bulk of this year's decrease came in the elementary grades, with about 200 fewer students are attending local elementary schools this year. Enrollment in middle schools is virtually unchanged, while high schools lost about 75 students.

The drop in elementary students has been under way for several years, he said.

Fairbanks' decrease in school-age children is reflected statewide, according to state demographer Greg Williams.

''I think pretty much we are seeing a slowdown in the number of kids,'' Williams said.

People in their 40s make up the state's largest age group and their children are usually in their teens, Williams said.

The smallest group is people in their 20s. They are often the parents of the elementary-age kids. It might be a decade before the elementary-age populations begin to grow again, Williams said.

''Certainly as the kids that are now going through high school, as they begin to get out and get into the job market, we will certainly see another wave,'' he said. ''People are pushing off marriage and childbearing later so that they are tending to wait until their late 20s or even early 30s before you see family formation.''

Numbers in the Denali Borough School District followed the same pattern as those in Fairbanks.

The district has the equivalent of 283 full-time students in its three schools in Cantwell, Healy and Anderson this year, said Beth Scheen, the district's business manager. Last year there were about 310.

Delta Junction is also seeing a decrease in enrollment, said Superintendent Dan Beck. ''It is down from last year but not as far as we thought we may be.''

Beck said about 700 students are enrolled in the district this year. According to information on the state education department's Web page, Delta had 850 students last year.

As in past years, Beck attributed the drop to the downsizing of Fort Greely.

''I think we are seeing the end of that effect this fall,'' he said.

While other Interior schools had fewer students, the Nenana City School District saw little change in enrollment from this year to last, though enrollment in the district's cyberschool program decreased, said Superintendent Terry Bentley.

The district has the equivalent of 1,886 full-time students on its rolls, he said. Of those, 195 attend school at the Nenana City Public School.

Bentley said enrollment at the school is up from last year by about 40 students. However, most of those students are from the district's new boarding home, which opened this year.

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