Loss of Roosevelt drops number of students attending Gary Community schools
By Carole Carlson email@example.com/648-3154 September 13, 2012 4:48PM
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:53AM
The loss of Roosevelt High School made a dent in the Gary Community School Corp.’s enrollment base, dropping its estimated 2012 enrollment to about 8,190 students, officials said Thursday.
Friday represents a high-stakes day for school districts across the state as enrollment counts taken then will determine state funding.
Last year, Gary had about 8,800 students. The Indiana Department of Education took over Roosevelt last year after years of poor academic performance. It’s now managed by EdisonLearning Inc., a private, for-profit education management company that has a four-year contract with the state.
The Gary district can no longer include Roosevelt’s enrollment in its count.
Gary’s eight charter schools, with a combined enrollment of about 5,000, also took a chunk out of Gary’s enrollment base.
The school year started on a sour note for Gary with parents angry over a lack of buses and a School Board policy that calls for older students to walk to school if they live less than 2 miles away.
The district has already relented on the walking policy for secondary students, forging a partnership with the Gary Public Transportation Corp. to pick up students for free.
Parent complaints were exacerbated by problems with the district’s contracted bus provider, Illinois Central Bus. Co. The district is paying Illinois Central $5 million a year for the bus service. The foul-up in bus pickups has been blamed on a software routing system.
Meanwhile, the Lake Central School Corp. has eclipsed Gary with an estimated 9,800 students. The state counts kindergarten students as a half-student for funding purposes, even though most attend school a full day now, said Mark Kellogg, Lake Central’s director of primary education.
Kellogg said Lake Central dropped about 100 students from last year, but Friday’s figures could alter the estimate.
The district is rebuilding Protsman Elementary to accommodate about 750 to 800 students, he said. It holds about 600 students now. He said the district is trying to anticipate the state ordering some type of preschool programming.
Merrillville Superintendent Tony Lux expects to lose about 20 students over last year, he said. “Primarily, what we’ve seen is people are moving away looking for jobs ... We don’t see a big loss to charters or vouchers.”
The School City of Hammond had the region’s largest enrollment last year at more than 13,000 students, but officials couldn’t be reached for comment on this year’s count.
In Portage Township, Superintendent Ric Frataccia said enrollment is estimated at 8,130, about a 2 percent increase and the highest in Porter County.
Valparaiso Superintendent Michael Berta estimated the district to hold steady at last year’s enrollment of about 6,225 students.
East Porter County Superintendent Rod Gardin said enrollment is up about 28 students with the bulk at the high school level at Washington Township.
“We have a lot of transfer students from Westville, Valparaiso, Union Township, Portage and Duneland.”
He said the School Board set a nominal tuition fee of $300 for transfers. “People like our smaller schools, our performance and curriculum. Parents look at ECA (end of course assessment) scores and other factors. These are good quality kids and they help increase our ADM (average daily membership).”