DCS: Increased loss in student enrollment is no surprise

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Dothan City Schools is continuing to lose students year-to-year, but according to the school system, that is to be expected.

In total, state records and local reports show DCS has lost 848 students from 1979 to 2019 — which is around 9.7 percent of the current official number of students, 8701 (8976 if you count the 275 Head Start students)

“Decrease in students means decreases in state revenue,” a DCS release states. “This was one of the reasons the Superintendent and School Board decided to completely redesign the system.”

Following the reorganization of the district — which included the unification of the high schools, the conversion of Dothan High to Dothan Prep and the elimination of other schools — the school system actually saw an increase in its net loss.

Hurricane Michael gave a boost to the student population in 2018 after around 100 students from Panama City and other areas hit by the storm flocked to Dothan, although DCS saw no boost in revenue for it.

However, with the fluctuating nature of enrollment throughout the school year, the latest count shows that the population went down from 2018-2019 to 2019-2020 by 333 students. This number is higher than the loss from 2017-2018 to 2018-2019 by 46 students, or around 16 percent.

“Reasons for the loss in enrollment vary,” the release states. “Reasons include: out of state transfer, in state transfer, public and private schools transfers, out of country, out of state and home school/virtual school as well as youth services.”

Five hundred forty-one students did not re-enroll into Dothan City Schools by the system’s No Show deadline on Aug. 30, but this was offset by 208 new enrollments from that day to the end of September. DCS said it expects more enrollments to come in as the year progresses, which would decrease the net loss.

“Our data and history show that Dothan City continues to have a mobile population,” the release states. “There were 131 out of state transfers and 250 transferred to public schools somewhere in the State of Alabama. 95 went to Private Schools, within the state.”

The system said this is not a surprise and that they are considering the first year under the new system as a baseline for the future. According to its release, it may take three to five years before the changes will take effect.

“We are excited about the additional academic offerings and the changes to our sports and extracurricular programs,” the system said. “We believe the changes will result in a stabilization of our student population.”

Aside from enrollment amounts, DCS also released information on the amount of students of free or reduced lunch. Currently, 71.87 percent of students are on the free and reduced lunch program.

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