Enrollment numbers increase statewide

Sunday, January 11th 2004, 12:00 am

By: News On 6

Increased enrollment in early childhood education programs across the state has increased state common education enrollment by 1,301 students in the first nine weeks of the current school year, according to Department of Education figures.

Oklahoma has 622,844 pupils in the classroom across the state, an increase from the first nine weeks of last school year, said Harriot La Grone, assistant state superintendent for financial services.

The state's two largest school districts saw a drop in average daily membership, according to figures released by State Superintendent Sandy Garrett.

Tulsa Public Schools lost 636 students but remained the state's largest district.

Oklahoma City lost 52 students.

Decreased enrollment at Tulsa's public schools are a reflection of an overall population drop in the city, said John Hamill, TPS spokesman.

Last year, Tulsa Public Schools saw an increase in enrollment, he said.

``We noticed a spike last year, despite the economic downturn,'' Hamill said. ``It could possibly be explained by people coming to Tulsa, since Tulsa would be more attractive in a time of economic crisis.''

The drop in this year's figures could indicate that job seekers have become discouraged and left the area, he said.

``It is clear that anytime you see a reduction in enrollment, you want to make sure that it is not a trend you are going to see continuing,'' Hamill said. ``Our trend has been slowly upward. We have not seen any large gyration downward in the last several years.''

Broken Arrow Public Schools remained the largest Tulsa County suburban district, with 14,690 students, a net gain of two, followed by Union Public Schools, with an enrollment of 13,707 students.

Several factors contributed to the increase in Union Public Schools average daily enrollment, said Jackie White, the district's director of pupil accounting and grants.

About 175 students who were in private schools enrolled in Union, she said.

The district's 4-year-old or early childhood program also saw an increase, she said.

During the 1998-99 school year, the district served 160 students in its early childhood program, compared with 533 in the 2003-04 school year, White said.


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