Savannah Chatham County public school enrollment decreases

Published: Feb. 1, 2023 at 6:14 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 1, 2023 at 7:21 PM EST
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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WTOC) - Savannah Chatham County public school enrollment is declining and expected to keep dropping in the future.

The school board met Wednesday, and talked about that issue and more.

“Where have all the children gone?”

That’s a question Savannah Chatham public schools’ staff presented to their board of education as 1 million students across the country left public schools, that’s according to this presentation.

It also shows the reason is partially because of lower birth rates over the years.

Budget Director Paige Cooley says the pandemic is also to blame.

“Private schools have also seen an increase in enrollment as a result of COVID 19. Growth in student home schooling has increased 50 to 60 percent during COVID-19 due to health and safety reasons,” Cooley says.

In this current school year, enrollment dropped by 53 students compared to the year before. Next year they are expected to lose 50 more students, which largely affects the school district’s budget. For a tentative schedule of the budget process, click here.

School board members heard a presentation with rough numbers of which schools are over and under capacity. Because of those numbers, board member Cornelia Hall mentioned selling Thunderbolt Elementary.

Board member Denise Garbowski also suggested using under utilized facilities for their youngest learners, which could increase enrollment.

“I would love for us to look at opportunities to be able to transition those to early learning centers for our 3 and 4 year old’s. That might even mean working with non profit organizations or other community partners to be able to increase those learning opportunities for our youngest scholars,” Garbowski said.

In the same presentation, Parsons firm said several older schools in Savannah Chatham County need improvements. 24 out of the district’s 50 schools scored a poor facility condition index meaning they need repairs or replacements. Presenters say theses numbers are average for Georgia schools.

“There are no true life safety threats right at this moment. Those are fixed and addressed on an ongoing basis before they become a true life safety issue,” Kachmar said.

School board members say some of the schools on the list are already undergoing repairs. 20 schools did have a good score.