Harford school enrollment declines for sixth straight year

Total enrollment in Harford County Public Schools has slipped again in 2011, the sixth successive annual decline, according to a report that was given to school board members at their meeting in Bel Air Monday evening.

Total enrollment this fall was 37,835 full-time students, according to the report compiled by the staff of Superintendent Robert Tomback. The figure is as of Sept. 30, about a month after the school year began.

The 2011 total is 192 students fewer than the 38,027 students enrolled in November 2010 and is 1,298 students fewer than were enrolled in 2005, the last time enrollment increased from year to year.

The Harford school system had 39,128 total students in the fall of 2005; 39,132 in 2006; 38,740 in 2007; 38,218 in 2008; 38,191 in 2009; and 38,027 in 2010.

The latest enrollment report states that four elementary schools, one middle school and two high schools "are either at or slightly over capacity even though the total enrollment has decreased from last year."

The report also states that the total enrollment projected by school officials for 2011 that was created a year earlier "was within 0.57 percent of the actual 2011 enrollment." Projections for 2012 enrollment will be presented to the board in December.

Tomback's report to the board does not discuss possible causes for the continuing decline in enrollment, which has occurred during a period of stagnation in Harford County's home building industry, but which also corresponds to the period when Harford was expected to have a large influx of new residents associated with BRAC at Aberdeen Proving Ground.

Cornell Brown, assistant superintendent for operations, told the school board Monday that BRAC had predicted the influx of student enrollment, but "the data doesn't reflect that."

Brown said he couldn't specify a reason for the decline, even with families moving to Harford as part of BRAC, but mentioned people moving out of the county as part of a job migration as a possible cause.

Census data for 2010 show Harford gained 26,236 residents during the previous 10 years, but at a slower pace than in previous decades. The county had 244,826 residents as of April 2010, according to the U.S. Census.

The latest census data also show 27.5 percent of Harford's 2010 was age 19 or under, compared with 30.1 percent in 2000. The median age of county residents has also increased from 36.2 years in 2000 to 39.4 years in 2010, according to census data.

Though enrollment declined in the second half of the last decade, it actually rose in the first half, increasing by 1,420 in the period from 2000 to 2005.

The enrollment report states that total full-time equivalent elementary enrollment this fall was 17,131, just 13 fewer students than in 2010; total middle school enrollment was 8,6434, which is 21 fewer students than in 2010; and total high school enrollment was 11,953, 143 fewer students than in 2010.

Since 2000, Harford has opened one new high and middle school, Patterson Mill near Bel Air, rebuilt existing high schools in Bel Air, Edgewood, Aberdeen and North Harford, rebuilt and/or expanded elementary schools in Edgewood and Joppatowne, and this summer opened a new elementary school, Red Pump near Bel Air.

Severe overcrowding in many Bel Air area schools prompted construction of the Patterson Mill secondary school and the Red Pump elementary school. Nevertheless, previous school-by-school enrollment figures showed many other areas of the county where secondary and elementary schools were under-used based on their capacities.

Prior to the opening of Red Pump this summer, the school system did a general redistricting of elementary schools to balance enrollment and fill the new school.

Aegis staff member Marissa Gallo contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2018, The Baltimore Sun, a Baltimore Sun Media Group publication | Place an Ad