LOGAN — During her report at the Logan County Board of Education’s regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, Oct. 22, Logan County Schools Superintendent Patricia Lucas said the district’s enrollment was down roughly 164 students from last year’s number— a 2.9% decline.
According to statistics provided by the WVDE, enrollment during the 2018-19 school year was 5,563, meaning this year’s enrollment sits somewhere around 5,399. The drop-off is less than the 235-student decrease Logan County Schools faced from the 2017-18 term to the 2018-19 term, but the news is still typical of the steady trend of declining enrollment since the 2013-2014 school year.
The last time enrollment saw an increase in Logan County was during the 2012-2013 school year, when enrollment was 6,426, compared to 6,393 in 2011-2012.
School enrollment continues to decline across the state. West Virginia’s southern coalfield counties lost, on average, between two to three percent of their student enrollment last school year, according to WVDE data.
The state as a whole lost 1.8% of its total public school enrollment, falling from 270,613 students during the 2017-2018 school year to 265,755 in 2018-2019.
Locally, Wayne County saw the most dramatic drop — losing 3.8% of its enrollment last year while falling from 6,999 students in 2017-2018 to 6,730 in 2018-2019.
Cabell County too saw a noticeable decline, falling 2.4% as enrollment shrunk from 12,730 students in 2017-2018 to 12,434 in 2018-2019.
The least impactful decline locally was in Putnam County, which lost only 1% of its enrollment last year and lost less than 100 students — declining from 9,628 to 9,536 enrolled.
Enrollment similarly fell in Lincoln (2%), Mason (2.2%), Mingo (3.2%) and Wyoming (2.2%) counties.
During his remarks, board member Jeremy Farley warned that the numbers will likely mean the LCBOE will have to cut positions again in the spring.
“Losing roughly 164 students doesn’t sound like a lot, but that will continue to mean, over the long term, that in the spring, we will probably have to cut both teacher positions and service personnel positions,” Farley said. “We continue to decline enrollment-wise, which is not a good thing for us. We rely on our two main sources of local income, which are student enrollment and property valuations. Of course, we do get federal dollars as well, but those two factors have been huge over the last several years for Logan County Schools.”
Facing declining enrollment, many counties restructure their school personnel through reduction-in-force listings.
Reduction-in-force policy is common in many workforces, particularly in education, in which employees are removed from their positions, often due to lack of funding or reorganization.
Cabell County Schools, for example, “RIF’d” 128 employees in April, though nearly all were hired back to positions within the county by the start of the next school year in August.
Lucas and Farley also commented on recent news reports regarding teacher attendance in the Mountain State.
On Oct. 10, WV MetroNews reported research from the WVDE that revealed that 52.75% of West Virginia teachers missed more than 10 days of work per year. The story was picked up and reported by numerous news agencies.
In her report, Lucas said teachers in Logan County who missed more than 20 days dropped from 17.84% in the 2017-2018 school year to 10.62% in the 2018-2019 school year.
“We talk about our student attendance and how important it is that if they’re not there, we can’t teach them,” Lucas said. “But it’s so important for our employees to be there. They’re valued, because they have the expertise and the consistency, but I’m very pleased — very, very pleased — with the decrease in those numbers, and I always want to let the staff know how pleased I am when they’re working, and I know sometimes they come to work and they’re not feeling well and things are going on, but they’ve made a concerted effort over the past two to three years making sure that they are there, and I applaud them for that.”
Farley said the media and certain groups are trying to blame school district employees for using their benefits while disregarding the fact they often get sick as much as the students do.
“I understand it’s a situation that has to be talked about, but I often feel like our teachers and our service personnel get attacked for using the benefits that they’re given from the state,” Farley said. “I think that it’s a little bit of a shame because anyone who has children in the system or has worked in the school system knows the number of illnesses that children have throughout the year, as well as our employees, that they get everything that our students have, whether it be strep, or the common cold, the flu, whatever it is, they come home with their family and they are sick. They have illnesses, and it’s a little bit of a shame that the media and groups try to blame our employees for using the benefits that they’ve acquired.”
Farley closed his remarks by encouraging employees to use their benefits and take off if they’re not feeling well.
“Of course, we want them there as much as possible,” Farley said. “They are the light in the world of many of our students every day, but I think it’s important to also recognize that they are just like the rest of us. They get sick, they have family emergencies, they have deaths in the family, and they get to use those days like anybody else would.”