Is South High Emptying Out?

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Here’s an interesting page on the Anchorage School District website where school enrollment information lives. I was curious to confirm stories that enrollment at South High has dropped because of corporate relocation attributable to declines in employment in the energy sector. South has a reputation of being a housing magnet for many such families. Somebody told me “the school seems empty” and “there’s lots of vacant houses all over South Anchorage”.

From the data, however, there doesn’t seem to be a story about recently declining attendance at South High tied to out-migration. From 2012-13 to what is projected a the end of the current school year therebacktoschoolkids‘s actually been a 1.0% increase at South, on a par with a district-wide increase, all grades and programs, of 1.4%. Total high school attendance is down 7.9%, but part of that decline is attributable to some kids migrating to charter schools and special services, which are tracked separately. So overall attendance of all kids grades 9-12 is down 6.7%. This means there’s been a bulge of younger kids entering the system in recent years.

East High and West were the only other high schools with an increase during this time, 1.6% and 2.8% respectively. All the other high schools saw small declines.

South shows it’s at 85% capacity, which is similar to Bartlett, Eagle River, and East. Service and Chugiak are under capacity. Dimond is at 90% and West is the only school that is oversubscribed, at 109% of capacity.

There was a significant decline in high school populations from 2007-9 until 2012-13. Total attendance actually increased 0.7%, but grades 9-12 lost 6.0%. South had the biggest loss, 18.2%, with other schools’ loss percentages in single digits, and West holding almost even. The population losses during that time were no doubt related to the banking crisis and national economic dislocation.

Present events, at least from the enrollment figures above, don’t seem to show as big an impact. Maybe that’s the story. If real estate values held steady during a time of significant enrollment declines, then recent enrollment figures would be more optimistic.