Newtown, Conn. is studying whether declining enrollment in its schools is a result of the 2012 slayings of 26 people at its Sandy Hook Elementary School or if the drop in numbers is part of a larger trend for suburban districts, the Danbury News-Times reports.
The October 2013 enrollment report for the district showed 4,951 students or 249 fewer than the 5,200 that were enrolled in October 2012. During the same time period, the Sandy Hook elementary enrollment dropped from 454 students to 395."
Newtown’s school board budgeted $17,000 to commission a study on the decline, with results expected in the fall.
Interim Superintendent John Reed has cautioned that there may be a drop related to the highly publicized shootings. It’s not difficult to imagine why. Residents and teachers have reported swarms of media on every milestone since the event, including anniversaries and the release of new investigative reports. Even when many media outlets said they planned to stay away on the first anniversary, I’ve heard anecdotal reports of reporters waiting on teachers’ doorsteps at 10 p.m. to ask for a quote.
If Newtown does determine that the shootings contributed to its enrollment declines, many district leaders will surely be interested to see how it responds. The small school system is charting new ground in many facets of its response, in part because of factors like the age of the children involved and the number of victims. Charities are preparing to provide mental health support for the long haul, despite strained resources, and Newtown leaders made plans for a new Sandy Hook school following extensive discussions with community members about how to best rebuild.
As we’ve mentioned before, there is no road map for responding to an act of school violence because every incident is unique. But the lessons Newtown is learning can surely inform the practices of other districts dealing with disasters, manmade or natural, in the future.
A version of this news article first appeared in the Rules for Engagement blog.