Kaua’i public school enrollment dips to 10-year low

Enrollment in Kaua’i public schools has hit its lowest point in ten years, according to statistics released by the state Department of Education.

In school year 1992-93 there were 10,503 students enrolled in Kaua’i’s public schools, grades 1-12. This school year, 2002-2003, there are only 10,263 students enrolled, or 240 less. There were 10,443 public school students enrolled in 2001-02.

Kaua’i enrollment hit a peak during the recovery from Hurricane ‘Iniki in 1995-96, with 11,176 students enrolled. Enrollment has been declining by about 1 – 2 percent since per year then.

Private school enrollment has fluctuated but increased overall since 1994. Kaua’i has had seven private schools open since 1994, with eight open in 1997 and 1999.

In 1994, there were 781 students in private schools; 798 in 1996; and 717 in 1997. Private school enrollment hit a low in 1999 with 529 students, but in 2000 there were 620 students enrolled and 766 students in 2001, according to the Hawaii Council of Private Schools.

The Hawaii Council of Private Schools also says that in 2000, 31 students graduated from private schools, the most since 1994, when six graduated. Ten students graduated in both 1997 and 1998. In 2000, 698 public high school students graduated; 709 graduated in 1999. It marked the first decrease since 1997, when 722 students graduated in 1996 and 680 graduated in 1997.

The last estimate for Kaua’i (1994) showed 49 teachers in private schools, about 16 students per teacher. In 1994, there were about 18 students per teacher in public schools.

“Enrollment didn’t seem to be affected by the hurricane at all,” said DOE spokesperson Greg Knudsen. In school year 1993-94, enrollment also increased by about 1 percent. According to the U.S. Census, population in Kaua’i County has increased by 14.2 percent.

Special education enrollment

Special education enrollment has continued to increase in Hawai’i since 1992, when 11,356 students were enrolled. This year, 20,808 students are in special education classes statewide, according to the DOE.

However, Kaua’i recorded the largest decrease in special education enrollment, down 7.08 percent from 2001, when there were 1,229 students. This year, special education students total 12.5 percent of all public school students, or 1,142.

“Kaua’i was the first district to be in compliance with the Felix consent decree, which may be an indication that Kaua’i students are getting what they need,” said Greg Knudsen, DOE spokesperson.

Felix broadened the scope of special education to include learning disabilities, behavioral issues and other reputed learning disadvantages – and requires all schools to provide special services and accommodations for students.

As a result, there have been more special education teachers and staff hired and more students placed in special education programs, according to the DOE.

University of Hawai’i

The University of Hawai’i has recorded a system-wide increase in enrollment of 4.9 percent compared to Fall 2001. In Fall 2002, there are 48,477 students, 2,279 more than last year.

The UH-West O’ahu campus had the largest increase in enrollment, 13.8 percent. The school enrolls 834 students, 101 more than Fall 2001.

Of the community colleges, enrollment at the Honolulu campus was down 3.4 percent, making the count 4,411 students compared with 4,567 in 2001.

Kaua’i Community College was at the middle of the pack with a 4.8 percent increase, the same as Leeward Community College. KCC remains the smallest of the seven campuses with 1,224 students.

Staff Writer Kendyce Manguchei can be reached at kmanguchei@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 252).

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