Student enrollment down in EBR, RSD systems; final count Oct. 1

Two weeks into the 2013-14 school year, enrollment has declined slightly compared with a year ago in the East Baton Rouge Parish school system but more dramatically at the state-run Recovery School District.

Both school districts have another month, until the official Oct. 1 enrollment counts, to try to bring up their enrollments. These enrollment counts represent money. Missing enrollment projections can mean midyear budget cuts.

East Baton Rouge had 201 fewer students at its 84 campuses Tuesday than it had on Oct. 1, 2012. That’s a drop of less than half of a percent.

The numbers were higher last week, but the school system on Friday, the 10th day of the school year, dropped students from the rolls who were no shows. Overall enrollment dropped about 500 students to 42,519 as a result.

Scotlandville Middle Pre-Engineering Academy had the most growth, doubling its enrollment to almost 600 students.

Several other middle schools lost students. Many students went to a series of special schools, superintendent academies, that are geared toward students older than their peers. Broadmoor Middle lost the most students of the middle schools, 137, bringing its enrollment down to just 381 students on Tuesday.

The new superintendent academies collectively enrolled 1,084 students on Tuesday. The largest, with 269 students, is located at the former Christa McAuliffe Center on Sherwood Forest Boulevard.

The seven schools that the Recovery School District runs in Baton Rouge have lost almost the same number of students as the parish school system, 209, but the loss is much bigger proportionally. The students represent a more than 10 percent reduction in overall enrollment.

The RSD had already been predicting internally a collective loss of about 200 students at these seven schools, but individual schools are not always following predictions.

The two RSD elementary schools, Dalton and Lanier, are beating their projections by 45 and 60 students respectively, while Istrouma High and Prescott Middle schools are below their projections by 51 and 63 students, respectively.

Attendance at these seven schools has been improving since Aug. 12, the first day of school, but it was still only 87 percent on Tuesday. At Istrouma High it was just 74 percent, with 70 of its 267 students listed on the rolls not attending school.

RSD Superintendent Patrick Dobard said in past years RSD schools in Baton Rouge and New Orleans have seen an influx of students in early September.

“Some parents don’t feel that the real work starts until after Labor Day,” he said. “It’s something we feel is totally wrong. We try hard to get them into school before Labor Day.”

Dobard said that unlike in New Orleans, RSD schools in Baton Rouge don’t participate in a central enrollment system with the local school district, East Baton Rouge Parish. As a result, it becomes difficult to locate students.

Some East Baton Rouge Parish and RSD students have been leaving for independent charter schools, public schools run privately, but it’s not clear how many.

For instance, the new Baton Rouge Charter Academy at Mid-City, a new elementary school that opened two weeks ago, had 512 students enrolled Tuesday with an attendance rate of 96 percent.

At Kenilworth Science and Technology Charter School, enrollment has grown from 521 students last year to 583 on Tuesday. Attendance was 93 percent but school officials say it’s normally higher.

Principal Hasan Suzuk, who has run the middle school since 2010, said it can’t take any more students and has a 45-student waiting list.

Kenilworth is part of the Recovery School District, but it’s run independently. The other seven RSD schools in Baton Rouge are run by state employees; RSD leaders are planning to turn all seven into charter schools over the next two years.

Since it received its charter in 2009, Kenilworth has quietly added students and improved its overall academic performance. It was an academically unacceptable school when it was still part of the East Baton Rouge system, but this year it finally cast off its F grade and advanced to at least a D. Kenilworth could have a C; the state isn’t releasing final school performance scores until October.

Suzuk said the school has grown more stable over time. Only one of the 13 members of his leadership team is new this year, he said.

As a charter school, Suzuk’s staff can make quick changes when needed. Last year, the school within days set up an early release day on Wednesday so teachers could get more training during school hours. Similarly, as part of a push to improve reading, the school hired two new reading coordinators in a matter of days, Suzuk said.

Students are happy too, Suzuk said, pointing to a 90 percent retention rate by returning sixth-graders and seventh-graders.

“I don’t remember anyone leaving because they were unhappy,” he said.