WSD – a fundamental question
Wilkinsburg School District (WSD) serves all and only Wilkinsburg Borough. Because U.S. Census data is reported for Wilkinsburg Borough and publishes population subtotals by age, it’s straightforward to compare counts of school age residents with the school enrollment counts that are required to be reported to Pennsylvania Dept. of Education (PDE). That measure is enrollment as percentage of age-specific population.
Next step: compare WSD’s enrollment as percentage of age-specific population to the same measure for other Allegheny County municipalities that are coterminous with school districts– for instance, Brentwood and Penn Hills.
Fewer than half of Wilkinsburg residents of high school age are enrolled in WSD, our public school system. Declining enrollment as percentage of eligibles has been the trend for many years, and this has not been reported to the people who pay school district real estate tax. What does it mean to operate a high school that serves fewer than half the eligible public?
No school district has 100 percent enrollment of age-specific population because dropping out, home schooling, private schools and charter schools are alternatives in every district. Generally, districts with lower household incomes have lower enrollment percentages. Generally, the enrollment percentage of high school age residents is lower than the enrollment percentage of younger children.
But– WSD’s high school enrollment is much lower than other districts, and the disparity between high school age and younger enrollment is notably greater than in other districts. At what enrollment percentage should the nine-member school board say Wilkinsburg High School is no longer serving “the public”?
And what does PDE say about this? I believe the answer is– “nothing.” PDE is not speaking up in the interest of the Wilkinsburg students nor in the interest of the the Wilkinsburg taxpayers.
There has been discussion recently about the number of high school students who play on the football team– so few that most players play both offense and defense, are on the field for an entire game, and are exhausted at the end of the game. Does the small number of players on the team indicate lack of interest in team sports at Wilkinsburg High School? I wouldn’t say so. What percentage of males enrolled at the high school are on the team, as compared to other high schools that have football teams?
I’m sure the team sport is very important to the thirteen young men who play football for Wilkinsburg. I’m sure there are students at the high school to whom the efforts their teachers make are so important to their development. But is the number of students enrolled too small to make a typical high school experience possible?
For this school year, the school board made some electives open to both middle and high school students, offering courses that were not offered last year, taught by teachers with the necessary subject-area certifications. Another change from last year– the Career Connections charter high school, which enrolled students from Wilkinsburg, has lost its charter and closed. At its meeting last week, the school board hired the former principal of that school as the new WSD middle/high school assistant principal.
Will a reversal of the trend of declining enrollment occur? Do Wilkinsburg residents want to be kept informed about WSD enrollment counts?