Northeast Dubois addresses declining enrollment


DUBOIS — For the second consecutive year, the Northeast Dubois County School Corporation will eliminate a teaching position.

The district’s school board approved cutting a fifth-grade teacher from the Dubois Middle School staff beginning in the 2018-19 school year at the board’s monthly meeting Tuesday night.

Superintendent Bill Hochgesang cited shrinking enrollment numbers as the reason for the continuing staff reductions.

“Our enrollment has continued to drop,” he said this morning. “We can’t control that. We just have less coming in at the kindergarten end than what we’re graduating, so it’s a natural attrition.”

The latest reduction comes less than a year after the corporation approved eliminating a full-time Northeast Dubois High School teaching position and two aide positions at Dubois Elementary. Northeast Dubois Schools also began sharing a corporation food service director with Greater Jasper Schools last fall.

Enrollment is declining at Northeast Dubois Schools. Projections show that compared to last fall, the corporation will have about 30 fewer students at the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.

Data from a 2016 feasibility study conducted by the corporation shows that Northeast Dubois was projected to have 846 students enrolled next year. Estimates from Hochgesang, factoring in the kindergarten roundup numbers from earlier this month, put that number at 804. Enrollment during the 2017-18 school year came in at 833 students — down 10 students from 2016-17.

The enrollment drops are significant when school funding is directly tied to enrollment. Hochgesang estimated that each student translates to nearly $6,000 in state funding, so losing 30 students means a loss of $180,000 in state dollars.

He acknowledged that eliminating one position doesn’t make up for that loss and praised the property tax referendum that went into affect in 2017 for allowing the corporation to maintain small class sizes even after the staff reductions.

The referendum is slated to bring in $500,000 to the corporation’s general fund annually through 2023. The decision to eliminate more positions will be made on a year-to-year basis, Hochgesang said, adding that corporation leadership wants to keep class sizes the smallest at the elementary level.

“Our enrollment drop comes at the incoming level,” he said. “We’re not a growing community. We’re made up of small towns that don’t have housing developments going up and a lot of growth, so this is just kind of part of it. And there’s not a whole lot we can do about that.”

He explained that a fifth-grade teaching position will be cut because the students are older than elementary students and leadership feels comfortable dividing them into two sections instead of three. Hochgesang’s projections suggest the fifth-grade class will consist of 53 students next school year.

The superintendent said Northeast Dubois has a lot to offer students.

“I don’t know if there’s anything we can truly do other than continue to be the best school corporation we can be,” he said.

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