Natchez, Adams County schools see enrollment boost

Published 11:05 pm Saturday, November 3, 2012

LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Joan David helps her kindergarten class write their journal entries for the day Friday morning at Cathedral School. David is one of three kindergarten teachers Cathedral added at the beginning of this school year to accommodate increased enrollment numbers. David’s classroom was also part of the atrium used by religion classes but was renovated for the class.

NATCHEZ — Overall enrollment in the public and private schools in Natchez and Adams County is up 64 students this year, a positive sign for a statistic that has dropped or stayed stable in many years since the early 2000s.

Enrollment at the Natchez campus of Copiah-Lincoln Community College and Alcorn State University is relatively similar to what it was last year.

Numbers in Concordia Parish are down slightly.

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Enrollment numbers at the Natchez schools that serve pre-kindergarten through 12th-grade students are:

  • Adams County Christian School — 479 students, up 55 from the 2011-2012 school year.
  • Cathedral School — 693 students, up 40 students from last year.
  • Natchez-Adams County School District — 3,770 students, up 29 students from last year.
  • Trinity Episcopal Day School — 256 students, down 60 students from last year.

A total of 5,198 students are enrolled across all four schools.

ACCS Elementary Principal Donna Loomis said enrollment generally fluctuates approximately 25 students each year, but the school has seen a steady increase in enrollment during the last three years.

“This year we gained quite a few public-school children, and I believe quite a few families have moved into town,” Loomis said.LAUREN WOOD / THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT — Cathedral School religion teacher Renee Kelly uses the computer in the teacher’s space she shares with the other religion teacher Lisa Ward in the atrium classroom Friday afternoon. A wall, far right, was built for this school year to create another classroom for incoming kindergartners.

At Cathedral School, enrollment was initially more than 700 but has since leveled out, Chief Administrator Pat Sanguinetti said.

That is not a typical yearly increase, Sanguinetti said, and Cathedral is full and not taking any more students this year.

“I’m putting people on a waiting list now,” he said.

The ideal enrollment number for Cathedral, Sanguinetti said, is 670.

“That is probably the ideal,” he said. “You’re not too big, and you’re not too small, and your class sizes are good.”

Cathedral has plans to do a $5 million update the campus that includes constructing a new middle school and expanding existing classroom space.

But that expansion is not aimed at allowing the school to accept more students, Sanguinetti said.

“It’s strictly to update the school,” he said. “I have high school teachers who are teaching in closets, who have to get in regular-sized classrooms,” he said.

Trinity Episcopal Day School Headmaster Les Hegwood said Trinity’s numbers have fluctuated quite a bit since this time last year.

The school had more than 300 students last fall, but only 213 students signed up for the new year in April. But now enrollment is 256.

Hegwood said the school has seen steady growth in recent month.

“For various reasons, students went elsewhere,” Hegwood said. “I took the job in June, and all I can see is what I had in the building (then) and the growth we have had.”

The school plans to add a 3-year-old kindergarten program in January.

In the Natchez-Adams School District, breaking down changes this year is difficult. A reorganization of the schools — sending different grade levels to different schools — makes comparisons to last year irrelevant.

For example, Superintendent Frederick Hill said, Morgantown’s enrollment is 874, up 296 students from last year, but the school also added a grade during the reorganization.

Enrollment at the other schools is as follows:

  • Frazier: 605, down 18 students from last year
  • West: 521, up 181 students from last year
  • McLaurin: 757, up 153 students from last year
  • Natchez High: 1,013, up 13 students from last year

In Concordia Parish, total enrollment for fall 2012 is 3,826.

Superintendent of Schools Paul Nelson said that number reflects a school population count that has been fairly steady over the past few years.

At the beginning of the school year, the district had approximately 25 students more than it did the previous fall, but Nelson said since then the population has fallen to approximately 25 fewer than for the same period last fall.

“We have lost 50 students in that time,” Nelson said. “For the last several years, like a lot of small areas, we have lost people because of economic issues.”

One area in which that has not been reflected, however, is the former Ridgecrest School, which in August became the Concordia Parish Academy of Math, Science and Technology, a magnet program, which has 112 students.

“We have picked up 20-plus students who were in the private school systems for the magnet school,” Nelson said.

Other parish school enrollment is:

  • Monterey School — 528 students.
  • Vidalia Lower Elementary — 499 students.
  • Vidalia Upper Elementary — 382 students.
  • Vidalia Junior High — 457 students.
  • Vidalia High School — 475 students.

VJHS and VHS have both experienced significant growth in the last two years, Nelson said, though that is largely attributable to the progression of large classes from one school to another.

“Everything is sort of an ebb and flow,” Nelson said. “Vidalia Upper dipped some because one of their large classes moved to the junior high.”

  • Ferriday Lower Elementary — 386 students.
  • Ferriday Upper Elementary — 318 students.
  • Ferriday Junior High — 331 students.
  • Ferriday High School — 296 students.

Ferriday schools have lost a number of students because of school choice options that were granted because of their school performance scores, Nelson said.

Thirty-seven students are enrolled at the Concordia Education Center.

In September, Co-Lin’s Natchez campus had 856 students, compared to 845 for the same period last year.

The current enrollment at Co-Lin Natchez after the drop-date is 819, said Rebecca Felton with Co-Lin’s admissions office.

Alcorn State University’s preliminary enrollment for the fall was 3,910, a 2.7-percent downward change.