Enrollment in Caroline County Public Schools is projected to decrease by 450 students over the next 10 years, according to a school demographics study.

Scott Leopold, a consultant with Cooperative Strategies LLC, presented the results of the company’s study to county supervisors at their meeting Tuesday night.

Despite an anticipated increase in both the general and school-aged population of the county in the next five years, enrollment is projected to decrease from 4,164 students in the current school year to 3,816 in the 2028-29 school year, the study found.

This would continue a downward trend that started in the 2013-14 school year, when enrollment was 4,340.

The study found that while the percentage of the school-age population attending public school has decreased from 2009 to 2018, the percentage of school-age population attending private school during the same period has increased.

Leopold said there is usually a drop in the “survival rate”—the number of students who transition between each grade—between fifth and sixth grade, representing the jump from elementary school to middle school.

“Sometimes it’s even more more pronounced than it is here,” he said. “Parents are pulling kids out of public school to go to private school for middle school.”

The report also showed that by 2023, the school-aged population of the county will be even more concentrated in the Ladysmith area than it is now.

Leopold said many factors can affect future school enrollment, such as a change in the number of live births or housing growth.

His report showed that the Caroline housing industry has been slower to recover from the recession than it has been in Spotsylvania and Culpeper counties.

Spotsylvania issued over 400 building permits last year and Culpeper issued about 200. Caroline issued fewer than 100.

In other action, the board elected Madison District Supervisor Clay Forehand to be chairman this year. Bowling Green Supervisor Jeffery Sili was elected vice-chairman.

The board also approved a special exception permit for the construction of a 199-foot Verizon Wireless communications tower on a property zoned rural preservation in Ruther Glen. The tower will have room to accommodate three other cellphone carriers, a Verizon representative said at the meeting. It will also be built to accommodate the 5G network when it rolls out.

Responding to a question from Supervisor Nancy Long as to how the tower will affect service in urpose is to improve service—voice and data—for this region.”

State legislation that went into effect in July changes the way localities can respond to special exception cases for new communication towers. Localities must approve or disapprove an application within 150 days of receipt or it is considered approved.

The new law also places limits on the requirements a locality can make before approving an application. Verizon asked for, and the board granted, a waiver of the county’s requirement for a 100-foot wooded buffer to surround the site.

Supervisor Floyd Thomas voted against approving the tower, citing his strong disagreement with the new state law, which he said, “takes away localities’ decision-making authority.”

Adele Uphaus-Conner: 540/735-1973 auphaus@freelancestar.com @flsadele

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