District-run schools lost more than 1,000 students this year in Palm Beach County, according to the first enrollment head count done by district officials this week.
But the district’s annual “11th day count” of the student population also showed that the booming population at quasi-public charter schools more than made up for the shrinking traditional schools.
The early year count on Tuesday found 180,073 students at the county’s district-run traditional and alternative schools, as well as charter schools. That’s a nearly 2 percent increase from the 176,724 students recorded in the 2012-2013 school year.
But this year’s growth came entirely from charters, which receive taxpayer dollars but are run by outside groups and do not fall directly under the school district’s supervision. With 11 new charters opening this year, that group’s population gained more than 4,100 students.
By comparison, the enrollment at district-run traditional schools dropped by 1,038 students — with almost all of that decline coming from middle school enrollment. Middle schools like Odyssey and Christa McAuliffe in west Boynton Beach, Osceola Creek in The Acreage and Polo Park in Wellington each had 100 fewer students.
The migration from traditional to charter schools played out heavily in suburban Boynton Beach this year. Parents in the Canyons neighborhoods who didn’t want to send their children to Odyssey Middle and Olympic Heights High schools led efforts to bring the new Somerset Canyons Academy charter middle and high schools to their area.
On Tuesday, Somerset opened with 552 middle-schoolers and 113 ninth-graders. School Board member Karen Brill, who represents the western Boynton area, estimated that as many as 90 percent of the middle-schoolers in her Greystone neighborhood left Odyssey Middle — which lost 159 students — to enroll at the new Somerset.
Meanwhile, Olympic Heights’ enrollment dropped by 93 students.
But while the enrollment at more than half of the district’s 185 traditional and alternative schools declined, not every district-run school lost students. In fact, John I. Leonard High School saw the largest increase of any district-run school. Bolstered by what School Board Chairman Chuck Shaw said was demand for new choice programs, the Greenacres school gained 242 students and now is the second largest in the district.
The “11th day count” is used by the district to identify possible crowding issues, and shift teachers to schools where they are needed to meet to meet state-mandated class-size limits. Those moves and other changes should be rolled out by the district on Sept. 16.
The district expects to see some fluctuation in the student enrollment figures between now and October, when officials will conduct a head count to help determine how much state funding the district will receive.
New students enrolled at charter schools this fall
Student enrollment drop at district-run traditional schools
Source: Palm Beach County School District.