VALDOSTA – Valdosta City Schools and Lowndes County Schools have seen increases in enrollment since classes started in recent weeks.

Lowndes started back about a month earlier than Valdosta, giving the county more data to review, but both systems have experienced a decrease in students in elementary schools with a rise in some of the higher level schools.

Both school systems reviewed enrollment numbers during the past week.

Owen Prince, LCS information technology director, spoke at the Lowndes meeting about numbers through the county's 20th day of school. Comparing day 20 with last year's numbers, Lowndes County Schools is down by 282 students.

However, Prince said day-one numbers this school year were down 504 students compared to the 2019 first day of school – meaning the number has risen during the first weeks. 

“I would be happy if we would pull within 250 of where we were last year and we may see that by day 40,” Prince said.

More than half of the total comes from pre-K and kindergarten, with those numbers down by 146 students. Prince said it isn't surprising since it's easier to find daycare options for that age range.

“Every school across the board is down except for Lowndes High and Lowndes Middle,” Prince said. “Lowndes High is up 85 kids over day 20 and Lowndes Middle is up 32 kids over day 20.”

Lowndes School Superintendent Wes Taylor added the 2019 numbers were record enrollments, stating he is not overly concerned yet. He said he believes day 40 will be a more accurate depiction of numbers as some students may return to Lowndes County Schools from private homeschooling environments.

There are 10,581 students enrolled in Lowndes County Schools as of the past week – 8,054 of whom attend classes face-to-face.

Lowndes has allowed some students to switch from virtual learning to face-to-face as some families found the model simply did not work for them. 

Valdosta City Schools has less data due to the later start date after Labor Day, but comparing its sixth day of school this year with the sixth day for last year, the system is down 130 students.

Similar to Lowndes, Valdosta has seen most of its dips in elementary schools with increases only at J.L. Newbern, Valdosta High School and VECA.

“We feel confident we can get these numbers up. We feel real excited about the high school having 169 more students than we had last year but there is some alarm because of 130 students of course that creates issues financially and otherwise,” Valdosta School Superintendent Dr. Todd Cason said. “We are continuously reaching out to parents encouraging them to enroll their students if possible.”

Almost half of the Valdosta student population opted for virtual learning with 45% choosing this path.

During the Valdosta Board of Education meeting, school officials discussed ordering and providing hotspots to families in need of internet access and are ensuring students will have access to necessary Chromebooks.

Cason added the number of at-home students will decrease as some parents have asked for their children to return to face-to-face learning.

“If a parents says 'I thought it (virtual) would work but it's just not working' the only person that would suffer would be the child,” Cason said. “We are encouraging those parents to reach out to the schools. I have given the principals the authority to make those decisions and if a parent needs to reach out to me then they can do so.”

Lowndes County Board of Education will meet 6 p.m., Sept. 21, at the Lowndes County Board of Education Office, 1592 Norman Drive.

Valdosta City Schools Board of Education will meet 7 p.m., Sept. 22, at the Performing Arts Center. All Valdosta meetings are live streamed on Facebook.

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