Friday marked the end of the first week of classes for those in Bartow, and district leaders last week were surprised that enrollment figures were lower than expected.
On Friday, the system had 13,825 pupils, down 661 students from the last day of the 2009-2010 school year in May. But that slide wasn't as deep as it was on Monday, the first day of classes, when it totaled more than 900 students.
"Usually, a school system will start on Thursday or Friday, and some people will finish a vacation that week and then come in the next week. We thought really that with us starting on Monday this week, the numbers would be higher," Bartow Assistant Superintendent Ben Desper said. "The only thing that we can figure is it's due to parents moving with economic conditions. Folks are having to go to where the jobs are, and I think we're reflecting the fact that there's a higher unemployment rate right now in our community."
Desper said the numbers have changed daily, with Monday's low number boosted by an influx of about 200 students the next day. He said that traditionally, systems continue to enroll students until Labor Day, and he expects the student numbers to increase as the month continues and approaches the first holiday of the school year.
The district, he added, will continue closely monitoring the numbers this week, with officials likely to make determinations regarding where personnel is needed after Friday, the 10th day of school.
"I think we'll continue to grow, the numbers will continue to go up -- where they will end up, that's anybody's guess," he said.
Most of the enrollment dropoff, Desper said, is in the elementary level, while the numbers in the system's middle and high schools are close to where they were last year.
"Maybe parents are less likely to move a child if they're already involved in band or sports and those things that they get involved in," he said. "Maybe they're more apt to try to let them stay in place and finish their middle school years or high school years than if they're in elementary school -- that's the only thing I can figure."
The smaller enrollment numbers could have their benefits. Desper said it could lead to smaller class sizes, though the district will ensure that all classes meet "funding size" rules -- the minimum number of students classes must have in order to receive state funding.
If the numbers necessitate classroom changes, Desper said officials will try to avoid impacting students' routines. The option to move children out of a classroom they have become accustomed to, he said, is "the last thing we want to do.
"The least disruptions that you can do to the children, the better off it is, and that is certainly what we will do. We will do everything we can not to change children's schedules unless it's a situation that is really a beneficial situation for the kids," he said.
The numbers at Cartersville City Schools have moved in a different direction. On Friday, enrollment stood at 4,069, up by 74 students compared to the same day in the 2009-2010 school year. Classes in the district began Thursday, Aug. 5.
Superintendent Howard Hinesley said that while his system was down 27 students at the kindergarten level, increases were seen elsewhere -- elementary grades were up by 64 pupils, with middle and high up 20 and 17, respectively.
Hinesley said he had not received any requests from school administrators for personnel changes due to the higher enrollments, adding that even an increase in one grade seems to be under control.
"We enroll one of the largest third grades -- that's a big third-grade class coming out of the primary school," he said. "Based on last year where we had a number of private school kids come in, we are where we thought we'd be in terms of the number of teachers that are there, at least right now. We don't believe we'll have to do any adjusting at the elementary in terms of teachers because we planned for a little bit of growth based on last year's experience.
While officials will continue to eye the numbers, Hinesley said he expects few enrollment changes now that the school year is in full swing.
"This should be fairly consistent," he said. "There wouldn't be any reason why we'd believe there would be any major differences."