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Tuesday, September 26, 2000

economy credited
with cutting school
enrollment losses

School officials say
figures show the exodus of
families has eased


By Crystal Kua

The exodus of families with school-age children from Hawaii may be leveling off.

The evidence comes from enrollment figures released yesterday, showing a slower than anticipated decline in the number of students attending public school.

Department of Education officials said this may be another indicator that Hawaii is headed for better economic times. "That does seem to correspond with an improved economy," said spokesman Greg Knudsen.

The official student count for the current school year came in at 183,520, a decline from last year's 185,036.

Department officials had expected public school enrollment to decrease this school year, but the numbers went down less than they had expected.

Enrollment forecasters had projected enrollment to be at about 182,328.

Keith Kameoka, of the Statistical Research and Analysis Section, said school officials believe the numbers didn't drop as much as expected because more new students came into the public schools from private schools, other places or outside the state, while fewer than expected left.

During the 1990s, officials saw the downturn in the economy playing a role in the decline in enrollment as young families headed to greener economic pastures. "The unemployment rate has improved, folks are not leaving," Knudsen said.

He said the enrollment figures also show a continuing shift in population growth.

While most school districts experienced a decrease in their student population, the enrollment in Leeward Oahu and on Maui rose slightly.

The Honolulu District had the biggest decline -- 526. The decrease is part of a continuing trend during the past few years of movement to where the housing market is the better.

"They're moving out of Honolulu and into other districts," Honolulu District Superintendent Raelene Chock said.

The Windward District had the biggest-percentage decline -- 2.2 percent.

"I know our kindergarten enrollment dropped, said Windward Deputy District Superintendent Phyllis Unebasami. The birth rate in 1995, when this year's crop of kindergartners was born, was low, she said.

Windward Oahu may also have an aging population. "As families are getting older, you wouldn't see as many school age children," Unebasami said.


The number of students attending public schools has fallen slightly this year.

DISTRICT 2000-2001 1999-2000 % Difference
Bullet Honolulu 34,217 34,743 -1.5
Bullet Central 33,505 33,924 -1.2
Bullet Leeward 37,152 36,919 +0.6
Bullet Windward 18,985 19,424 -2.2

Source: Department of Education

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