School enrollment numbers are down in Storey County. And like the nearby counties of Douglas and Carson City, rising housing prices are being cited as the reason on the Comstock.
Four-hundred and fifty students are enrolled in Storey County schools this year, a difference of 29 from last year, when 479 were enrolled.
"Compared to secondary schools, it looks like most of the loss of students is at the elementary level," said Gloria McCoy, student information and registrar coordinator. "I don't know if it has anything to do with property values here in Virginia City. It's just speculation, but I wonder whether young families can afford to live here."
At Hugh Gallagher Elementary School in Virginia City, the drop was 13 students - last year, 140 were enrolled, this year 127. Hillside Elementary School in Lockwood had 68 students enrolled last year. This year, there are 59. That's 22 students total, or about 76 percent of the loss in the Storey County School District.
"I guess we're going under the hold-harmless provision, which is based on enrollment from prior years, So consequently, we'll be OK," McCoy said. "But it's definitely a little concerning."
One factor affecting the decrease in enrollment at Hugh Gallagher is no pre-kindergarten students qualified this year for the early-developmental assistance program. Five students qualified last year.
Count Day, the third Friday of every September, requires school districts to turn in numbers based on students enrolled that day. The number cannot be changed, and per-pupil funding from the state is based on it. Students do not need physically be in school to be counted, but must be enrolled.
Last year's Storey Count Day revealed a small increase in enrollment. This year is the first for the district to use two-year hold-harmless funding, which will be based on enrollment numbers two years ago. The provision allows districts to deal progressively with drops in enrollment.
Toni Givant, secretary to the Storey County School District Superintendent, thinks part of the drop in enrollment in Storey is there are not enough young people enrolling to replace the larger graduating classes.
"The biggest difference you'll see is if you look at our seniors that graduated and the kindergartners coming in," she said.
Thirty Virginia City High School students graduated in 2004. Starting at the end of the spectrum this year are 19 kindergartners.
"That's a big difference," Givant said. "It's my opinion, that it's the cost of living that's not bringing younger kids in."
According to the Northern Nevada Regional Multiple Listing Service, the average cost of a single-family home in Storey County is $296,500. In Carson City, that cost is $319,199, in Douglas County, $584,631, and in Lyon County, $210,692. All of those county's school districts, except Lyon's, decreased in enrollment this year.
The problem is not lack of housing in Storey County, but that it's too expensive.
"Lower-income families are going to Dayton, to Lyon County, where they have some lower-income housing," Givant said. "Out in the (Virginia) Highlands,) you can't even get a home for under $300,000."
The district does not track where its students go, but it did permit variances for 23 of its students to join other districts this year, compared with 31 last year. The district also allowed 26 students to enter on variances this year, compared with 34 last year. Parents home-schooling their children dropped from 15 last year to 12 this year.
"I don't really know where (those home-schooled students) went," Givant said. "Sometimes they move. I'd say they probably moved out of the district."
n Contact reporter Maggie O'Neill at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1219.
Hugh Gallagher Elementary School enrollment
Grade 2004 2005
Early-childhood: 5 0
Kindergarten: 15 15
First: 24 18
Second: 24 24
Third: 18 20
Fourth: 30 20
Fifth: 27 30