Mercer County enrollment down slightly

Ben Zigterman GateHouse Media Illinois

ALEDO — Like other nearby public schools, Mercer County District 404's sixth-day enrollment dropped over the past year, with the district losing 1.7 percent of its students.

Mercer County lost 24 students, dropping from 1,376 to 1,352.

Other local public schools either remained stable or saw declines, with Galesburg District 205 losing 2.1 percent of its students and ROWVA District 208 losing 2.5 percent.

School districts report sixth-day enrollment to the regional office of education, and will report again to the state at the end of September. Enrollment will likely fluctuate throughout the year.

Local superintendents said the declines are in line with long-term trends and reflect a regional population decline as more people move to Peoria, the Quad Cities or other cities for better job opportunities. Mercer County Superintendent Scott Petrie could not be reached for comment.

Area enrollment stable or declining

At Knoxville District 202, Superintendent Steve Wilder was hoping for an increase based on early registration numbers, but its sixth-day enrollment declined by 11 students compared to a year ago, down from 1,049 to 1,038.

"We've been fairly stable over the past 10 years," he said. "We've been trending down these last couple years."

Percentage-wise, ROWVA District 208 saw the largest decline in enrollment, from 648 to 632 this year, or a 2.5 percent decline.

To help improve enrollment, ROWVA Superintendent Joe Sornberger said ROWVA is going to work on a marketing campaign where it works with local Realtors to encourage them to tout the benefits of living in ROWVA's district. The decline in enrollment this past year was typical for the district, Sornberger said.

"You have larger classes at the high school graduating around 60 students, and we're only bringing in 40 in the lower classes, so we're losing about 20 a year,"  Sornberger said. "I would say a lot of it deals with economics. People that lived in outlying areas now live in Galesburg or Peoria or the Quad Cities. Or with the economic climate in Illinois, they've left for Iowa."

Galesburg Christian School grows

In Galesburg, District 205's decline is in line with long-term trends.

Since the 2005–06 school year, enrollment has declined from 4,693 students to 4,270, a 9 percent drop. After increasing in the 2012–13 and 2013–14 school years, enrollment has declined for the last three years.

In the past year, most of the losses came at the elementary (–55) and high school (–44) level, while the middle schools added eight students.

From 2000 to 2015, the city of Galesburg's population has also declined, from 33,706 to 31,273.

The school district's drop was more than expected, Grimm said, but generally in line with long-term trends.

The declining enrollment will result in less general state aid, which is based in part on attendance, Grimm said. He blamed the declining enrollment on the regional economy, saying people move to where the jobs are.

"It's a symbol of other issues and other problems," he said. "I think 205 is an outstanding school district, but there have to be jobs for people to afford housing, groceries, utilities."

While Galesburg District 205's enrollment has declined, Galesburg Christian School expects enrollment to increase by more than 30 percent.

"We went from 104 last year. And we're starting Sept. 6, but we're going to be around 140 this year," GCS Head of School Robert Nutzhorn said.

Nutzhorn said GCS's students have come from various areas.

"It's a wide mix," he said. "There's some that moved into the area, some that transferred from Costa (Catholic Academy), some from District 205, from Monmouth. A little bit of everything."

The school is growing, Nutzhorn said, because of its Christ-like environment and small class sizes.

"Our maximum class size is 15," he said. "Our average is about 11, maybe a little more than that."

Costa Catholic Academy has about 250 students from pre-kindergarten through eighth grade, Development Director Susan Day said. She did not have last year's enrollment numbers.

Ben Zigterman: (309) 343-7181, ext. 255;; @bzigterman;