Fulton County Schools predicts enrollment decline over five years

Fulton County Schools on Tuesday released a five-year enrollment forecast that predicts student numbers will drop by several thousand students by 2026-2027. STEVE SCHAEFER /AJC FILE PHOTO

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Fulton County Schools on Tuesday released a five-year enrollment forecast that predicts student numbers will drop by several thousand students by 2026-2027. STEVE SCHAEFER /AJC FILE PHOTO

Fulton County Schools expects its enrollment to drop by more than 3,700 students over the next five years.

The district reviewed its enrollment forecast at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting. Fulton, the state’s fourth-largest school system, enrolled 90,415 students this year.

By the 2026-2027 school year, district officials expect enrollment to decline to 86,691 students. A consultant hired by the district predicted the enrollment could be even lower at 82,960 students.

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The anticipated drop takes into account the impact of COVID-19, birth rates and other considerations such as the housing market.

“Incoming cohort classes have been substantially smaller than previous years,” said Yngrid Huff, executive director of operational planning. “As larger graduating classes are exiting the district and smaller kindergarten classes are entering, a natural decline is occurring.”

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Student counts affect school systems in a variety of ways, from budget implications to building needs.

Last school year, Fulton reported its largest enrollment decline on record, losing 3,572 students. This school year, the district gained back 39 students, a fraction of the number of students that officials expected would return.

Huff told board members that officials were optimistic that many more students would return this year. But she said the surge of the delta variant just before classes began in August negatively impacted student numbers, particularly in elementary grades.

Statewide, Georgia’s public school enrollment recovered slightly this year after a steep decline the prior year.