The residents in and around Methacton School District have been repeatedly told of the growing student population. Skyview Upper Elementary School and additions to schools like Woodland Elementary were necessary, according to officials, due to such increases in classroom size.
But, is the school district really growing?
Rep. Mike Vereb, who serves the 150th district, which includes Methacton School District, has stated that district’s like Methacton will require additional funding for a “growing” population.
According to a recent Times Herald report, “Vereb noted that the ‘hold harmless’ provision — which guarantees a district will not receive less state funding than it did the year before, even if its enrollment is shrinking — may be harming ‘growing districts like Spring-Ford, Perkiomen Valley and even Methacton which aren’t getting increases to match their larger student populations.’”
Vereb has a large role in discussions such as district funding. As of late July, the representative was named the co-chair of a state commission aimed at examining educational funding.
“In a single word, this commission is about fairness,” said Vereb upon his appointment. “I want to work to establish fairness so that students in every area of Pennsylvania have access to a quality education. I want to make sure schools in Montgomery County and everywhere else across the Commonwealth receive their fair share of funding. We recognize tax dollars are a limited resource and our responsibility is to find the best way to use the dollars that are available.”
According to the Methacton School District’s “Student Data Portfolio,” enrollment over the past few years has actually declined. The chart shows a steady decline in enrollment from 2009-2010 school year through 2013-14.
In those six years alone, the enrollment dropped from 5,339 students to 5,042 students, a loss of 297 students. To put the figure in perspective, there are 299 students pictured in the 2013-14 Woodland Elementary School Yearbook. The drop in enrollment is nearly the size of an entire elementary school.
MSD resident John Andrews, of Lower Providence Township, has frequently asked the school board about such a decline. He recently took his concerns to Vereb, as he continued the “rising enrollment” falsities in recent articles.
“The K-12 enrollment peaked in 2006 at 5,454, and is in decline,” said Andrews in a letter to Vereb. “Last fall, it was 5,042, off over 10 percent. By 2020, it is projected to be down to 4,571, down another 10 percent.”
Andrews presented similar figures when then-school board president James VanHorn said Skyview was necessary.
“I was rebuffed when Skyview and expanding Woodland were a VanHorn imperative,” wrote Andrews. “Now, Methacton has about 1,500 empty seats and a mountain of debt from here to 2024 to pay off.”
Other neighboring districts show a similar decline, even those that Vereb called “growing” along with Methacton.
Perkiomen Valley’s enrollment peaked in 2009 with 5,878 students. Since then, the district has had a loss each year going down to 5,814 in 2011; 5,813 in 2012; and 5,757 in 2013. PVSD has had an overall loss of 121 students.
In Spring-Ford, a similar peak happened in 2012 with 7,859 enrolled students. The same district enrolled only 7,841 the following year, down 18 students.
Along the same years, Norristown School District has increased each year from 2007-08 school year to the present. In 2007-08, Norristown reported 6,661 students. In 2013-14, the same district had 7,109 students enrolled, or an increase of 448 students. Vereb did not mention in the Pottstown Mercury, nor Times Herald article, an increase in Norristown.