More ninth and 10th-graders are choosing to attend the Lorain County JVS over Wellington High School, leaving the district searching for ways to reverse the trend.
The vocational school, located in Pittsfield Township, allowed freshmen to openly enroll for the first time this school year, which increased the number of full-time students leaving Wellington from a yearly average of 63 between 2012 and 2016 to 93 this year.
Thirty-two freshmen and sophomores made the switch this year — nearly matching the previous four year’s combined total of 34.
Enrollment at WHS has dropped 18 percent from 475 in 2012 to 389 this year.
School districts receive approximately $5,000 in state funding per student, which can vary depending on factors like average property values and population size.
Superintendent Ed Weber said 40 McCormick Middle School eighth-graders have inquired about the JVS so far this year and suggested Wellington should look into expanding its technical education programs and examine its standards for college and career readiness.
“It’s no longer automatic for students to go from your junior high to your high school,” he said. “Parents have the ability to shop schools. We have to make sure we’re educating our students, parents, and community about what we’re offering. We have to do a better job of showing them what we do well. We have to earn their business too.”
Ayers Ratliff, who sits on both the Wellington and JVS school boards, said some students say they choose the vocational school because it’s “fun” and not as demanding as WHS.
“Kids tell us they don’t have to work at JVS,” he said. “If that’s the image they have, that’s what they’re going to choose. The parents are the ones making the decision on where the student will go. We can tell students to stay in Wellington all we want, but talking to the parents is the real key.”
Ratliff and school board president Sally Stewart said students who return to Wellington after attending the JVS are often behind in core subjects like math and reading, which has also been touched upon by WHS principal Tina Drake.
When asked for comment Feb. 15, JVS superintendent Glenn Faircloth disagreed with those assertions.
“Our teachers are highly qualified just like all the other schools,” he said. “They attend the same colleges and universities as the other schools. Our teachers work hard just like them. We do a great job here and have multiple awards that speak to that. Ask our tech teachers about how the content all of our teachers provide helps our students. We’re a united front here.
“We’re not against (Wellington) and I hope no one’s against us,” he added. “We’re a community school. We’re here for everyone. When we keep kids on target, the home school district gets the graduation credit, not us.”
Weber said he and Drake plan to visit eighth grade classrooms at McCormick and bringing more prospective freshmen into WHS for presentations.
“We have to go out and earn our students’ and parents’ confidence,” he said. “Being their home school, we have the advantage of early outreach and we need to be doing that. Those are all things we can do very well. We just have to make sure it’s happening.”
He also pointed to broader patterns affecting Ohio’s and the region’s student enrollment.
“The Wellington school district is growing in population but family size is decreasing. The area’s population is going up by two or three percent but our school-age children are not,” he said. “We could see a little bump here or there but the general trend over the next 10 years is the child population declining. That’s regionally, not just in Wellington.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.