WASHINGTON COUNTY - Students here grabbed their bookbags and school supplies to begin a new academic year Monday, but preliminary enrollment reports show the number of children attending Washington County schools is down.
So far, about 3,231 students are enrolled for the 2014-2015 school, marking a continuation of a downward trend the system has experienced over the last five years. About 3,462 students were enrolled for the 2009-2010 school year, and that number has decreased slowly but steadily each year.
"We're not exactly sure what's responsible for the drop," said the school system's Director of Administrative Services, Pat Collins. "When kids leave our system, we enter a withdrawal code to help keep track. Many are moving to public schools in other states and public schools in other counties. Some are going to neighboring counties because their parents work there, but, in turn, we also have students enrolled from neighboring counties because their parents work here, and that usually evens out."
Collins also pointed out that Washington County's unemployment rate is among the highest in the region at 7.8 percent for July 2014. Other counties in the region rates for July are Calhoun, 7.4; Holmes, 6.4; Jackson, 6; and Liberty, 6.5.
Collins states the school system will soon send letters to parents who home school their children to let them know accredited virtual school opportunities are also available at no charge.
Current enrollment for the county is: Chipley High School, 553; Kate M. Smith Elementary, 753; Vernon High School, 414; Vernon Middle School, 286; Roulhac Middle School, 585, Vernon Elementary School, 568; WISE, 44; McKay School, 19 and Washington Virtual School, 9.