A group of first grade Lake Forest Elementary students at one of the after-school programs offered at LaAmistad. In the 2023-24 school year, 54 more elementary school students were enrolled than in the last year. (Hannah Greco)

Student enrollment in Sandy Springs Schools dropped by 72 students in the current school year for a total of 9,199 students, following a trend for the entire Fulton County Schools District.

Elementary school enrollment in Sandy Springs rose by 54 students, but middle schools declined by 72 students and high school enrollment was down by 54, Ingrid Huff, FCS director of operations, told the Fulton Board of Education at its work session on March 14.

School district funding is determined by enrollment, she said. Enrollment projects aid in short-term planning to set budgets and staff resources needed for the next school year. For long-range planning, the projected enrollments help the district to set its capital plan needs around new schools.

The district enrollment was 693 students fewer than during the 2022-2023 school year, with 89,722 students enrolled, she said. This pattern resumes the gradual rate of decline she said the district has experienced since 2017.

“The slight uptick of enrollment at 39 students that we experienced last year was influenced by a term many have called the COVID Bounce, where students exited the district during the height of the COVID pandemic and returned from home school,” Huff said.

The Georgia Department of Education recognizes Fulton County by north and south regions for space needs. But since only Ga. 400 and Roswell Road offer access across the Chattahoochee River, FCS deems Sandy Springs as a third region, she said.

The district’s enrollment totals declined, but its cohorts – grade-level bands of students who transition from one grade level to the next – grew by 748 students. Sandy Springs’ cohort growth shrunk by nine students, with North Fulton’s growth reaching 1,378 students and South Fulton increasing by 65 students.

Sandy Springs had more than 3,800 students attending private schools.

The school district tracks housing inventory and planned residential development in its enrollment forecasts. Sandy Springs had almost nine months of supply with 80 new homes available, Huff said.

Active and planned residential development in Sandy Springs is concentrated in the central portion of the region around the Roswell Road corridor, she said. This could signal a stronger home resale market that positively impacts grade-level mobility. But in Sandy Springs redevelopment continues to plague enrollment.

Huff said FCS anticipates a small decline of 77 students for the 2023-2024 school year, with a district total of 89,646 students.

She said long-range estimates anticipate a decline of 1,093 students, which is far less than previous estimates.

“Even pre-COVID many of those estimates showed a stark decay of nearly 4,000 students over the next five years within our district. This shift in enrollment trends is great news for Fulton County Schools,” Huff said.

Bob Pepalis

Bob Pepalis covers Sandy Springs for Rough Draft Atlanta and Reporter Newspapers.