Andes is bucking trend of smaller enrollment

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By Joe Moskowitz
Ever since the end of the Post World War II baby boom, schools in general, but especially in rural areas, have been facing the problem of declining enrollments. Andes Central School was included in merger talks since the early 1970s.

Three years ago, the district reached its low point. The enrollment was down to 101 and if the school’s one kindergartner had moved, there would be an even 100. That’s right THE kindergartner. There was just one.

Now there are about 120 kids who attend Andes. People may still find that to be an extremely low number for pre-K through 12th grade, but that’s a 20 percent increase and not many other districts can make such a claim.

According to Superintendent Dr. Robert Chakar, the future is looking pretty good. The current Universal Pre-K class has 14 kids and most of them are from the Andes district. That’s significant because Andes has long drawn students who live within other districts. Margaretville is the biggest contributors with nearly 20, but Dr. Chakar says there are students from Delhi and as far away as the Onteora Central School District.

Dr. Chakar says there are two reasons for the enrollment surge. There are more babies being born in the Andes district. The school has no control over that. But it can make itself more desirable to kids and parents who live elsewhere. He says it is friendly, well equipped, and being small works to its advantage. A parent who lives outside of the Andes district has to provide transportation and pay tuition of $400 for the first child and $100 for each additional child in a family. But there is non shortage of parents who are willing to drive and pay. One parent said that they had their child switch from Margaretville to Andes. She says it didn’t change her child, but she said because the school is small, they understand her child’s issues.

When it was pointed out to Dr. Chakar that some people look at Andes like it’s a small, private school, he smiled. He wasn’t at all insulted.