Last year, Solanco school officials wondered if the low kindergarten enrollment was a one-time occurrence or the beginning of a trend.
Now a trend seems more likely.
For the second year in a row, the school district has fewer than anticipated students signed up to begin kindergarten later this month.
"We have 192 [children registered to start kindergarten] as of today," assistant superintendent Dr. Robert Dangler said last Thursday. "We expect 197 by the time school opens." By this time last year, 191 students had enrolled in kindergarten for the 2018-19 school year.
Last year's lower kindergarten enrollment is having an impact on first grade numbers for the coming school year.
"We don't need as many sections in first grade and we have moved some teachers from that grade level," Dr. Dangler said.
This year Bart-Colerain Elementary School will have just one first grade class. As of last Thursday, there will be 22 students in that class.
"We have never had that before," the assistant superintendent said.
The past two years' kindergarten enrollment is far below what had been the average for the district. A typical kindergarten enrollment had ranged from 240 to 260 students.
"What we thought might be a one-year anomaly is now a two-year trend," he said.
The decline is significant compared with the typical kindergarten enrollment of 280 to 300 students a decade ago.
The decline from the 2017-18 school year to last year was dramatic. In August, 2017, there were 258 students enrolled in Solanco kindergarten classes.
The decline was not predicted by demographic studies performed by the Pennsylvania Department of Education or by a consultant hired by Solanco. Both studies predicted the school district would see rising enrollment through the start of the 21st century.
"This is a trend we have to watch. We don't know if this is a trough and we will bounce back or if it will continue to stay this low," Dr. Dangler said of the past two years' kindergarten enrollment.