While researching data for a meeting the other day, I came across some disturbing facts concerning the enrollment of school aged children in Garfield County. While much of the country is experiencing growth in their schools, our dwindling rate is approaching historic lows. As a result, state funding is on the decrease.
The enrollment number for the year 2001 was recorded for the district at 1049 students in the various district schools. Fifteen years later, 2016 figures show a total of 904 students or a net decrease of about 150 students. This decrease alone is worth about a half a million dollars in decreased funding towards the cost of educating our youth. If you take a look at the individual school populations, there are two schools that have consistently remained above average for student growth. Both Panguitch Elementary and Panguitch High show an increase of 2 and 6 students respectively. PMS is down about a student. Both Bryce Valley schools are about one student down. The two schools in Escalante have shown average decreases of 8 students at the elementary and 29 at the high school. Our small schools at Antimony and Boulder have a combined decrease of 9 students of this same period of time.
While smaller families may contribute to this decrease in student numbers, the lack of a sustainable winter economy has also caused a decrease in school aged children. State statistics show Garfield County down 60 jobs in the last year. How many children do these 60 jobs represent?
Utah’s population has doubled from 1980 to about 3 million today. Department of Workforce Services states Garfield County is one of five Utah Counties to experience a shrinking population. Additionally, Garfield County shows a 9% decline in gross taxable sales.
Please wake up those entrepreneurial skills inside of you. Our schools need more children to generate more income for better programs and offerings. Until we work together to develop a winter economy our prospects of more students looks bleak.
Tracy Davis, Superintendent