Western Slope schools losing students to ongoing natural-gas downturn

The ongoing downturn in natural gas drilling on Colorado’s Western Slope is taking a toll on local school districts, according to the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, which cites a 13-percent drop in students in Garfield County School District No. 16, which serves Parachute and Battlement Mesa.

That decline in enrollment matches a 13-percent decline in De Beque School District 49-JT, where administrators hope for more students by October when the district must submit its numbers to the state. Each student is reportedly worth about $11,000 in state funding in De Beque.

Garfield County schools were experiencing about a 10-percent-a-year increase in enrollment during the most recent natural-gas boom, according to the Sentinel. Other school districts in oil and gas country aren’t being hit quite so hard by the recent downturn.

Enrollment for Meeker School District Re-1 in Rio Blanco County is actually up about 20 students, while Garfield Re-2 School District, which serves the communities from Rifle to New Castle, is only down about 40 students out of a total of 5,000.

Some administrators quoted in the story directly pointed to the recent drilling downturn associated with global recession and drop in commodity prices, but they added they were already seeing signs of a turnaround and that it’s all part of the ebb and flow of the cyclical oil and gas industry.

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