PITTSFIELD -- Disconcerting school system enrollment figures that appeared in October to show a sharp decline of 156 students proved to be a false alarm, Superintendent Jason "Jake" McCandless said.
During a November meeting of the School Committee, McCandless said enrollment figures for this school year apparently showed a decline of 2.5 percent, or 156 students, as of October. The enrollment had slipped from 6,161 students to 6,005 pupils, according to figures available at the time.
The superintendent told committee members he would look further into the data and updated the information in December. He said this week, "I think now we look pretty close to being the same as last year. All in all, it [enrollment] is stable."
Part of the problem, he said, is that information regarding a number of students who had left the Pittsfield system since the summer is not typically available to officials here at the start of the school year. In fact, he said, early fall enrollment numbers can fluctuate significantly over a short period.
For instance, the city's enrollment figure dropped by 75 students in one week in September, but those students actually had not been in the system since the prior year; their new information had not yet been received. Of those, 52 no longer lived in Pittsfield.
While the fall enrollment counts that are sent to the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education reflect enrollment on Oct. 1, McCandless said that report is not sent until mid-October. Therefore, the Oct. 1 number can be updated as new information comes in to the system.
Another consideration, he said, is that the enrollment figure at the end of the school year in June typically is more stable year to year. The total in June in Pittsfield schools was 6,005. He said officials will discuss whether considering the June enrollment figure when comparing totals provides the most accurate measure.
He added, "We also may want to consider when to make the figures public so as not to [make revisions] later."
The updated enrollment figure as of Dec. 1, McCandless reported, was 5,999, or six students fewer than in June.
Considering school choice figures, McCandless said those also appear stable, but he expects to have a more complete picture of trends for those students and for overall enrollment figures soon.
"Certainly, there is not a dramatic rise or fall [for either figure]," he said.