Dothan City Schools has taken a hit over the last 10 years with students fleeing the system in significant numbers each year. This year, the system took its biggest blow in recent years with 333 students who were “no shows” on the first day or withdrew after school started.

“Decrease in students means decreases in state revenue. This was one of the reasons the superintendent and school board decided to completely redesign the system,” the report on the DCS website stated.

The school system restructuring decision was made in 2018 after months of deliberation that gave board members the choice of five scenarios, which were all new Superintendent Phyllis Edwards’ recommendations. Edwards is the third Dothan superintendent to try to consolidate the high schools in Dothan’s recent history – and she was the first to do so successfully.

Before Edwards’ arrival, the system was in dire financial straits struggling to operate 17 schools with less state revenue every year due to students moving to other districts, private schools, and online or homeschooling.

The students leaving have caused a shift in the school system’s demographics as middle to high-income families are the main segment that can afford to seek alternative education leading to a higher number of minority students and those from low-income families.

Last year, 67.8% of all students were on free and reduced lunches. Of those, 62% were on free lunches, which mean they were meeting poverty guidelines set by the state.

This year, the number of students on free and reduced meals has risen to approximately 71.9%

From 1979 to 2019, the system has lost 848 students. The decrease in enrollment was documented in state and local system reports.

The most recent loss will likely cost the system over a $1 million in funding for around 40 teachers and administrative positions in addition to funding for textbooks and technology.

Chalk Talk, an education notebook compiled by education beat reporter Sable Riley, appears each weekend in the Dothan Eagle and at DothanEagle.com

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