Student populations at districts in Ripley and Franklin counties vary widely. The Batesville Community School Corp. has just over half the number studying at the Sunman-Dearborn Community School Corp., but over twice the numbers at Milan Community Schools, Jac-Cen-Del Community School Corp. and South Ripley Community School Corp. (please see chart).

But there is a trend. The number of students at all six school systems decreased this fall compared to 2017-18 totals found in the Indiana Department of Education Compass reports.

Last school year's totals: Batesville, 2,203, down 22 this fall; Franklin County, 2,385, down 118; Jac-Cen-Del, 852, down 28; Milan, 1,148, down 65; South Ripley, 1,190, down 60; and Sunman-Dearborn, 3,803, down 123. 

BCSC superintendent Paul Ketcham pointed out, "The decline in overall enrollment was directly related to Indiana’s mandate to stop readiness kindergarten programs (4-year-old kindergarten). We had 60 students participate in the program in 2017-18, thus the slight dip in enrollment for the 2018-19 school year."

He added, "Based on birthrate data from Margaret Mary Health, we are predicting gradual incremental growth in student enrollment at BCSC."

Milan superintendent Jane Rogers reported, "This decrease was expected and is due to a larger graduating class than incoming class of kindergarten" students.

According to SDCSC superintendent Dr. Andrew Jackson, "We recently completed a demographic study. It shows we continue to lose enrollment and level out at around 3,410 in six years."

He noted, "This loss of enrollment has a direct negative impact on our state funding, around $5,500 per student. We lost around $600,000 this year due to the drop in enrollment. We maintain a five-year forecast to help predict the ebbs and flows of our revenue and be sure to make decisions looking at the long-term impact."

Rogers said, "We've learned to do more with less. We maximize funding to provide quality, well-rounded educational opportunities for our students and their families."

There is another factor that can impact student enrollment – the number of transfer students that move in and out of each school corporation. Public corporation transfer reports can be viewed at www.doe.in.gov/accountability/find-school-and-corporation-data-reports.

Batesville and Milan were the only two out of the six districts that had more students transferring in than out this year. What makes them magnets for families?

Ketcham said, "The Batesville Community School Corp. takes great pride in providing opportunities for all students. Access to world-class experiences in the arts, opportunities to earn targeted college credits at no cost to school families, a robust co-op and internship work-based program, a Mandarin dual-language program, high-quality sports and extracurricular activities, and a culture of academic excellence help attract our 278 transfer students."

He observed that BCSC's appeal goes beyond what happens during the school day. "We are thankful for a community that is willing to support our schools and invest in our children." In addition, "the city of Batesville is a powerful tool in attracting families and transfer students."

According to Rogers, "We believe there are many reasons families are attracted to Milan Community Schools. It's a great place to learn! In each school there is a warm, caring atmosphere created by our outstanding teachers and staff working closely to help students learn and grow every day. Parents play a vital role as well, creating a team approach to encourage each student's success.

"Our goal is to graduate students with a purpose. To achieve this goal, we begin by building a strong foundation for younger students and continue by providing a variety of courses at all levels, including technology, dual credit and work-based learning options for older students.

"There are many opportunities for students of all ages, including 19 sports, bands, choir, robotics and archery clubs, as well as many other organizations .... We are thankful for those out-of-district families who have chosen Milan and we welcome others who would like to be a part of our outstanding learning community."

Reasons that students transfer out of a district vary. The BCSC superintendent said, "Some of the variables include child care and place of employment for parents outside of the Batesville area. It may be simpler for parents to drop off students at grandparents' or other relatives' homes as they travel to and from work each day."

"We do not track this information," Jackson said. "I think a lot of the decision is proximity and convenience. We lose several in the Morris area to Batesville and in the Bright area to Lawrenceburg. At the same time, we gain several from southern Franklin County. I don't have data to support this. It is just a hypothesis at this point."

© 2019 Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc.