Greater Nashua school enrollments declining

As the region’s communities prepare their school budgets, most of them are looking at a slow decline in student populations that’s beginning to show up even in higher grades.

Enrollment at most of the region’s high schools this year is slightly below 2007, according to data given to the state by districts. This signals the end of years of growing high school populations, whose enrollments were bolstered by the children of baby boomers, the so-called “echo boom.”

The echo boom moved out of elementary school long ago. With a few exceptions – Windham and parts of the Souhegan Valley – all the region’s elementary grades have fewer students this year than they did in 2000.

Their departure from high school is more recent, however. Even after this year’s decline, virtually all the region’s high schools have considerably more students than they did in 2000.

A similar pattern is reflected statewide. New Hampshire’s total student population grew steadily between 1984 and 2001, but since then it has slipped by about 1 percent.

The pattern is unlikely to change anytime soon, since New Hampshire’s percentage of young adults – the people most likely to have children – is one of the lowest of any state and has fallen in recent years.

Declining enrollments are starting to be felt in school budgets, too.

For example, the Amherst and Souhegan school districts are looking to cut almost 20 positions, many of them teachers, because of decreased student populations. Nashua has even been debating closing an elementary school because of enrollment trends.