Despite coal industry layoffs and a high unemployment rate, both school districts in Letcher County have yet to see a dramatic decrease in student enrollment.
Letcher County Public Schools is down seven students from the beginning of the 2013–2014 school year. The district had an enrollment of 3,223 in August and 3,216 at the end of the third month of school.
At the beginning of the 2012–2013 school year, 3,243 students attended schools in the Letcher district. By the end of October in 2012, enrollment dropped to 3,223. The Letcher district ended the 2012–2013 school year with 3,199 students.
“We’re still holding very strong with our student enrollment,” said Kenneth Cornett, director of pupil personnel for Letcher County Public Schools. “That surprises me.”
Jenkins Independent Schools has 12 less students than it did in August. Rondall Baker, director of pupil personnel for Jenkins Independent Schools, said 524 students are enrolled in the district as of December 2 and 536 were on the roster the first day of school.
For the 2012–2013 school year, enrollment totaled 527 both on the first day of school and at the end of the third month of school.
Nearly 30 Pike County students transferred to the Jenkins district in August, Baker said.
Letcher County’s unemployment rate for August was 14.9 percent, according to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training. District administrators anticipate student enrollment numbers to decline as parents move elsewhere in search of jobs.
“I anticipate that to change at any ime when unemployment benefits run out,” said Baker.
Neon Dentist Dr. Sam Quillen Jr., also a member of the Letcher County Board of Education, said during a school board meeting on Nov. 25 he saw five patients earlier that day who will not be living in Letcher County come January.
“It just breaks my heart,” said Quillen.
Cornett said principals are aware of these enrollment numbers and are planning accordingly for next school year.
“We’ve been anticipating that for awhile,” said Cornett.