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An unofficial, first glance at 2012-13 enrollment in the Kenmore-Tonawanda School District told officials pretty much what they already knew: The numbers are continuing to drop.
The first count, recorded by principals at each of the 13 buildings last Friday, continues a practice started several years ago. And each year has shown a decrease from the one before.
"There really aren't any surprises," School Superintendent Mark P. Mondanaro said at Tuesday's meeting of the Ken-Ton School Board.
Unofficially, districtwide enrollment stood at 7,280 at the close of last week. That's down from the unofficial count of 7,495 on the same day a year before.
Total enrollment in the district's elementary schools is 3,224 - down from 3,318. It's 1,725 at the middle school level - down from 1,759.
And high school enrollments total 2,331 - down from 2,418. Mondanaro noted that enrollment at Kenmore East has dropped below 1,000 students, to 984.
Meanwhile, district officials are cautiously optimistic that a new alternative education program that began this year may keep enrollment from dipping even further because of drop-outs.
The Big Picture Learning program, which offers 15 slots each for freshmen and sophomores, is housed in the Philip Sheridan Building.
It's designed for at-risk students, including those whose attendance is poor or who have failed multiple courses or had to repeat a grade.
While instruction is based on the interests of individual students, they still must meet the same requirements as their peers in the traditional high schools.
In just a few short days, Mondanaro said, it appears that students who otherwise might not be in school aren't eager to get back home.
"It's much too early to prove the worth of the program," the superintendent cautioned.
According to Robin B. Zymroz, director of student services, invitations to participate in Big Picture were extended to the families of 67 students identified as candidates by school counselors and principals.
There still are five or six slots open for freshmen, but district officials expect that to change.
Some parents apparently wanted their children to at least give the traditional high school setting a try, Zymroz said.
"They were very reluctant to start them off in the Big Picture program," she said.
However, the families of two students already are reconsidering Big Picture, Zymroz said.
"We are just holding out, knowing we will be at capacity very soon," she said.
The district's shrinking enrollment will be further scrutinized in a districtwide consolidation feasibility study getting under way this month.
The consulting team and School Board have scheduled an Oct. 2 work session to talk about what the study will entail.
The district's website, www.kenton.k12.ny.us, has a Consolidation Project tab to keep residents informed on related issues.

email: jhabuda@buffnews.com