Friday, May 1, 2009

Community School braces for enrollment decline

Anticipated student drop expected to be within 10-year average


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

Andy Jones-Wilkins

The Community School in Sun Valley anticipates a modest decline in enrollment for the next school year but expects that the reduction in student numbers will be within normal annual fluctuations.

Headmaster Andy Jones-Wilkins said Wednesday that exact numbers for enrollment next year won't be known until June, but he believes the student population will be between 290 and 295 students. Presently, there are 309 students, from kindergarten through the 12th grade, enrolled at the Sun Valley private school.

"Our attrition numbers are right in the range of our 10-year average," Jones-Wilkins said. "As of April 29, they're looking pretty normal. At least as of today, I'm not worried about it."

The headmaster said that the expected decline in the number of students may not even be attributable to a sluggish economy but may rather be the result of the dropping of a second fifth-grade class. The Community School added a second fifth-grade class this year because of a larger than usual number of students in that age group. The addition of the new class translated into more students applying for admission, Jones-Wilkins said.

"We've had an increase in the number of requests for financial aid, and that may be a result of the state of the economy," he said. Jones-Wilkins estimated the increase in requests at 5-8 percent from what it typically is.

The Community School provides about $700,000 annually in financial aid to students.

Without assistance, a year's tuition at the school costs $19,345 for elementary school students, $22,445 for middle school students and $22,890 for high school students.

While next year's enrollment decline is expected to be modest, Jones-Wilkins said The Community School has prepared contingency plans if expectations are not met.

"We're pragmatic, but optimistic," Jones-Wilkins said. "There's just so much uncertainly in the system."

Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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