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Opening Day Numbers Down In School District
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Numbers are not where officials want them - in fact, they're below where they were at the end of the last school year in May - but more than 3,000 students headed back to class in the Escalon Unified School District on Monday.

"We were down a lot at El Portal, which we expected, but we didn't expect the numbers to be down at the high school," explained Escalon Unified School District Superintendent Dave Mantooth. "We are below where we ended up in May."

In school districts, student numbers translate to state aid dollars, so the dropping enrollment is a cause for concern. But, as Mantooth noted, it's not time to push the panic button just yet.

"Last year we ended up with 3,132 in the district at the end of May," he said. "We think we're somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,100 right now ... by the end of the first week we should have a better idea,"

That's because not all students attend the first day of classes, and those still finalizing last minute transfers or just getting into the district should help bulk up the enrollment figures by the end of this week.

Still, it's not likely to reach last year's opening enrollment of 3,177.

"It's an ongoing concern that we're not pulling out of this declining enrollment," Mantooth admitted, noting that it led to some staff cuts during the last budget process. Some teachers have been placed on a 'permanent substitute' list, with hopes of being reinstated to jobs if the student numbers rise in the right places.

As far as campuses go, Mantooth said things are "tight" at Dent, Farmington and Van Allen - with classes including those in the class size reduction program - filled nearly to capacity. Escalon has instituted the class size reduction in kindergarten through third grades, with a maximum of 20 students per class at those levels.

"We have a little bit more room at Collegeville," Mantooth added.

Depending on how the numbers change this week, and where any influx of students occurs, officials may have to reassess some class structures at the outlying campuses, he said.