Nearly a week into the new year, Rock Hill school officials are trying to figure out why enrollment across the district dropped by more than 700 students.
About half of those students left for York Preparatory Academy, a new K-8 charter school in Rock Hill open to any South Carolina student, according to district figures.
But where the rest went isn't clear.
"We don't have an explanation for that yet," Superintendent Lynn Moody told the school board during a Monday night meeting.
"I'm not sure why we have declining enrollment."
Generally, school systems, which get state money based on the number of students attending, don't officially tally enrollment for at least 10 days. That's usually enough time for early transfers and withdrawals to shake out.
Moody's staff ran early numbers on Aug. 20, the third day, and compared them with the previous three school years' 15-day counts. The figures show the districts overall enrollment fell from 17,943 last school year to 17,227. That's even down from 2007, when enrollment was 17,469.
Part of the answer might be that York Prep took more than the 353 students that Rock Hill schools have accounted for.
While the charter school's leaders haven't officially counted, they estimate that 550 of their expected 700 students are from Rock Hill schools.
Still, that doesn't explain why since last year Rock Hill and Northwestern High each lost more than 100 students. South Pointe High, however, gained 18 students.
Those drops were unexpected, Associate Superintendent Luanne Kokolis told the board.
"The question is: Why are we losing 100 kids in each high school?" she said.
Nine of the district's 25 schools saw enrollment grow, but most saw declines.
Moody's staff plans to watch enrollment and count students again within two weeks to determine whether the district could lose state money.