Rural schools see rapid enrollment declines
Gold Oak Union, nestled among the winding, cracked roads of the El Dorado County foothills, lost a third of its students over the past six years, dropping from 716 students in 2006 to 493 in 2012.
Black Oak Mine Unified, which stretches 50 miles from the uninhabited Desolation Wilderness near Lake Tahoe to the western El Dorado County community of Cool, lost one in five students during the same period, bringing enrollment to 1,569 students.
Rural districts are losing enrollment for many of the same reasons as urban districts in the Sacramento region: an aging population and declining birth rate. In rural areas, these trends are magnified by a small employment base that has been further eroded by years of recession. With few jobs and fewer options, many families have moved to the suburbs or out of state to find work.
"It's a pretty consistent story throughout California in rural communities," Adam said. "You can't compete with time and distance."
All told, the 10 fastest-shrinking districts in the Sacramento region, each with fewer than 7,500 students, have seen enrollment declines of 20 percent or more during the past six years.
This exodus of students drains money from rural school districts. The bulk of state funding to schools is based on enrollment. Fewer students means fewer state dollars, making it difficult for districts with dwindling enrollment to keep teachers and pay bills...