Cape high school enrollment steady but shifting

Enrollment at Cape area high schools fell by only .68% this year, a loss of 66 students. Since 2001, Cape high schools have lost 1,372 students.

Winners: Monomoy High School, Upper Cape Tech

Six grew and six lost students

Monomoy Regional High School’s enrollment grew 6.66% this year, up from 586 last year (combined enrollment of Chatham High School, Harwich High School and both towns’ eighth graders) to 625 this year. See the chart with enrollment comparisons from 2001 to 2015 below.

Upper Cape Tech had a net gain of 22 students (3.25%) between FY2014 and FY2015.

Six area public high schools showed some level of growth and six experienced reductions.

Nauset, Sandwich Drop

The Cape’s “school choice flagship”, Nauset Regional High School, lost 51 students this year – a drop of 5.05%. In addition to a general population decline on the Lower Cape, Nauset faces a resurgent Monomoy district that appears to be retaining more of its own students. Nauset may also be observing the first damage caused by the recent public defenestration of Superintendent Richard Hoffmann by the combined school committees.

Sandwich High School’s enrollment fell by 45 students (5.73%) this year.

On the other side of the bridge, Wareham High School lost 7.3% of its students in a single year.

The Sturgis Factor

Sturgis Charter Public School has grown to 806 students. Sturgis’ enrollment had grown over the past several years as they opened a second campus and “built out” their enrollment to fill the new facility. Since 2001, Sturgis’ enrollment has grown by 303% but, with the new school filled, that meteoric growth has leveled off, with a net gain of only three students this year.

Dennis-Yarmouth, Falmouth and Barnstable all experienced profound enrollment drops at the high school level in recent years. Barnstable’s student count has fallen 24% since 2001, Dennis-Yarmouth by 37% and Falmouth by 32%. Sandwich comes in fourth with a 28.47% drop since 2001. The superintendents in those districts often point to Sturgis when asked where the students have gone.

Private High Schools

Enrollment at Pope John Paul II High School grew by 30 students between Fiscal 2013 and 2014, the most recent years reported by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. PJPII now enrolls 298 students.

Cape Cod Academy had 144 students in grade 9-12 in Fiscal 2014, down from 155 in Fiscal 2013.

Falmouth Academy served 117 high school students in Fiscal 2014, up from 112 the previous year.

Trinity Christian Academy enrolled 31 high school students in Fiscal 2014, up from 16 in Fiscal 2013.

With nearly 600 students attending the Cape’s best-known private high schools, private schools remain an important factor in the Cape’s school competition game.

Market Driven Education

School choice and charter choice are most telling at the high school level. Students have usually attended their town school district since Kindergarten and often have deep social ties to their classmates.

Despite these hometown ties and despite the hardships of going to school in another town, the shifting enrollment of our school population shows that parents are willing to send their kids to the high school that best fits what they want their kids to learn.

Some town school districts are learning to market themselves, most especially Barnstable and Dennis-Yarmouth. Nauset mastered school competition a decade ago and continues strong, if slightly diminished this year. Monomoy appears resurgent, despite test scores that don’t measure up to its primary competitors.

Cape Cod offers perhaps the most vibrant school competition environment in Massachusetts. Such competition brings abundant opportunities for our students and abundant challenges for town districts’ leadership.


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