Foreclosures not the reason for enrollment drops in South DeKalb
Would someone please inform the AJC that unless they have done the research, to stop insinuating that the high number of foreclosures in South DeKalb is the reason why school enrollment is down. There is no doubt that some students who leave a particular school has done so because their parents were forced out of their home, but enrollment in many South DeKalb schools has been declining for almost a decade. Here are a few examples from this year alone of the AJC making it a point to blame foreclosures for the recent enrollment drops. Here are a few examples:
Many speakers at the hearing accused the board of pandering to the interest of parents in affluent north DeKalb neighborhoods, while targeting schools in the south. However neighborhoods in south DeKalb are some of the hardest hit by foreclosures
Most of the schools slated to close are in south DeKalb, which has been hardest hit by the foreclosure crisis. Children from those schools would move to schools in other areas of the county
However, south DeKalb houses some of the neighborhoods in metro Atlanta hardest hit by the housing slump and foreclosures.
I did some cursory research on school enrollment at a few schools in South DeKalb, and found that the schools scheduled to close were losing kids years before the foreclosure crisis. In fact during the recent foreclosure mess and economic downturn, some schools have been able to maintained their enrollment levels. I decided to go back to the 2003-2004 school year. That was when I purchased my home, and I remember that people were still high on real estate and foreclosure was unheard of. Her is what I found:
Atherton Elementary Had 466 students in the 03/04 school year. Two years later(05/06) they had fallen to 438. Two years after that, it was down to 419, and by the 2009-2010 school year, Atherton had 399 students. Gresham Park fared far worse, going from 400 students in 02-03 to under 300 by the 09-10 school year. Both schools had massive drops that started long before the economic downturn and the resulting spate of foreclosures
Contrast that to A couple of larger schools in newer areas of South DeKalb. Oakview, opened in 2005, started out with 876 students by 2010 they had 828, a loss of 48 students, still one of the largest elementary schools in the county. Chapel Hill had 784 students in 2003, and 763 by 2010. Both schools loss less than six percent of their students.
My point is simply this; Without any hard numbers, making assumptions that foreclosures are the reasons for these school’s falling enrollment is misleading and lazy. If the reporter had a simple knowledge of the area, they would know that demographics is playing the largest role in enrollment decline. Unlike in other parts of the county, some areas in South DeKalb are not replacing students at a high enough clip for these schools to maintain normal enrollment numbers. In other areas of South DeKalb you have schools that are. These phenomenon are nothing new. In the 90’s, schools in South DeKalb that were outside 285 experienced such rapid growth that new schools had to be built to accommodate the influx of students. A decade or so from now, the declining enrollment at schools inside 285 will probably spread to those outside 285 in South DeKalb. It is a shift in demographics. Unless young people with young children move into South DeKalb, you are going to see this play out several more times in the near future.