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DeKalb School District releases ‘sobering’ data on enrollment decline

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DeKalb School District releases ‘sobering’ data on enrollment decline

DeKalb County School District Bus. Photo by Dean Hesse.
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This story has been updated. 

By Logan C. Ritchie, contributor

DeKalb County, GA — DeKalb County School Board members in an Oct. 7 meeting described the latest student enrollment data as “alarming” and “sobering.” Out of 93,674 students enrolled in fall 2020, only 69,296 returned in fall 2021. 

Dr. Vasanne Tinsley, interim superintendent of DeKalb County School District, included 2020 U.S. Census data in the presentation because household demographics have a lot to do with the mobility rate in DCSD. 

“Economics has a large part to do with the movement of our students. Families that lose jobs, families that have to relocate, families that lose housing or may not have stable housing are forced to move to sustain themselves,” Tinsley said. 

To see Tinsley’s presentation, click here.

Tinsley said the churn rate includes 5,351 students who graduated. So where did nearly 19,000 students go? Nearly 10,000 were no-shows: students who registered for school but eventually stopped attending for reasons unknown to the district. According to Tinlsey’s report:

— 9,832 were no-shows

— 4,557 left for unknown reasons

— 2,768 students moved out of DCSD

— 778 moved out of state

— 448 transferred to private school

— 243 transferred to home school

— 208 moved out of state

— 193 fall under a category labeled “other”

The report provided a breakdown of reasons for leaving by school. 

“It was quite sobering to see the actual breakdown by schools. This was very comprehensive, very involved, and I’ve never seen it this way since I’ve been in the district,” said board member Dr. Joyce Morley. 

Board chair Vickie Turner said the report “speaks to some things we suspected,” calling the data alarming. In Turner’s district at Chapel Hill Elementary School, 58% of students who left transferred to another school in the state, while 3% transferred in-district.   

Tinsley said the data should be used to identify needs and provide resources to families. 

“We have to understand our families, and we have to connect with community partners who can help us to do the work. When you talk about families that are leaving for economic reasons, you’re talking about job stability or instability, social and emotional needs, mental health needs,” Tinsley said. 

Board member Marshall Orson, who has been working on mobility issues for 20 years, said historically there is a “fair amount of mobility” between DCSD and Atlanta Public Schools, Fulton County and Clayton County. 

Orson suggested working with other districts to allow students to stay in their current schools to finish the school year when a family moves to a neighboring school system. 

“We can’t change the mobility issue. That’s external. People move for a variety of reasons, almost none of which we control. But we can try to minimize the negative impact of that move,” said Orson. “Our goal is to create more stability, which creates better educational outcomes.”

At the start of the 2021-22 school year, 24,407 new students enrolled, including 7,701 four- and five-year-olds who had never attended school before, 7,571 moved in from other districts, 4,051 move in from another state, 2,111 moved in from another country, and 2,973 moved in for other reasons.

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