Foley, AL (WKRG)
Baldwin County is often touted as one of the fastest growing areas of Alabama. New data from the State Department of Education show that may be slowing. The state recently released the average daily membership — or attendance — for every school system in the state this year.
Baldwin County schools are still growing but that growth appears to be slowing. Comparing last school year to the start of this year, Baldwin County gained about 236 students system wide. That’s the smallest year-to-year growth in 10 years.
I showed my findings to David Vosloh, a member of the Community Advisory Task Force. He says this may be a temporary breather for Baldwin.
“Well right now I think it’s kind of a help and apart from pay as you go, a few additions at some schools, there’s been no new construction in many years,” said Vosloh.
Eastern shore schools showed the most growth while south Baldwin schools in Robertsdale, Foley and Gulf Shores showed a slight decrease compared to last year. Several factors could account for it including a lack of affordable housing.
“Same thing applies here in Foley there was a terrible shortage of apartments for people with small children to rent,” said Vosloh. Baldwin County is still bucking a major statewide trend. From 2015 to 2016 about 2/3rds of all school systems in the state are shrinking. Baldwin is among the few school systems that are growing. Baldwin’s student population still grew despite an increase in private school options like the new St. Michael Catholic School in Fairhope.
My analysis does not factor in growth in Pre-K programs because that is not used by the state to determine funding levels. It is also not readily available from the Alabama Department of Education’s data center. In the last 20 years Baldwin county schools have grown by more than 9,000 students–or 42%.