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Opinion Series: Why is Bladen County Schools Enrollment Declining?

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In my first article in the series’It Takes the Entire Village’ I highlighted the fact that nearly 600 students who live in Bladen County do not attend Bladen County Schools. Ladies and gentlemen that is enough students to fill multiple K-8 schools. In fact, that’s roughly the size of one of our high schools.

So let’s talk about the ‘why’ because most of us have certainly made some important changes in our lives, be it personal or professional but one thing is probably true about that change. We were looking for something better. Looking for something better translates to we were no longer happy or satisfied with the current situation.

That number of 600 students will continue to grow unless we address the ‘why’ because you can not ignore it. Parents now have multiple options for schooling their children. We have to address the ‘why’ with a vision and purpose to correct whatever is causing the unsatisfactory reasons for students to leave Bladen County Schools. I completely understand that there will be attrition but in a county of our size we can hardly afford our attrition rate to be hovering around 15%. So why are families opting out of Bladen County Schools? Surely, I do not have any data to back up my reasoning but the most obvious answer is a lack of satisfaction. You see, most people look for change based on what you are doing wrong. They leave not because the next place is really better but only perceived to be better based on a word from a family member, a neighbor or even a friend. It’s a competition and parents are going to chose what they think is best for their kids. We all do.

When charter begin advertising to open it doors, they were advertising all across the county. I was really surprised that Bladen County Schools had no plan or even no desire to launch it’s own campaign stressing why parents should keep their children in Bladen County Schools. The charter schools had a strategic focus to get their school up and running by appealing to families who were no longer satisfied with Bladen County Schools. For the most part Bladen County Schools accepted that fact and accepted those losses.

The losses have to stop because the enrollments are continuing to decline and eventually more schools will be shuttered due to extremely low enrollment numbers. More and more families will make the choice to move out of Bladen County for the sake of their children. We are an aging community and it’s important to keep our younger population here in Bladen while providing a high quality public education. We need to figure out the ‘why’ and stop our losses. Do things right, do things better and watch them start to come back home. We must work on solutions that benefits our students in Bladen County Schools. Everyone loves coming back home. That’s something that brings us together.

Trey Johnson

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