Thousands of would-be SB, Elkhart public school students opt for alternatives

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - A new report from the Indiana Department of Education says thousands of students who live in areas where they would normally attend South Bend Community School Corporation schools and Elkhart Community Schools have opted to attend other districts or private schools.

The question is, where exactly are they going? And why?

Neither district's superintendent was available for an interview on Thursday.

Both districts have would-be students choosing alternatives in the thousands.

Here is a breakdown of the numbers for the past three years for South Bend Community School Corporation.

Reported in Fall of 2017-2018
Public incoming transfers: 67
Public outgoing transfers: 3,975
Net public transfers (total choosing other public schools): -3,908
Non-public outgoing transfers (Students choosing private schools): 2,627
Net students opting for alternatives = 6,535

Reported in Fall of 2018-19
Public incoming transfers: 49
Public outgoing transfers: 4,440
Net public transfers: -4,391
Non-public outgoing transfers: 2,687
Net students opting for alternatives = 7,078

Reported in Fall of 2019-2020
Public incoming transfers: 55
Public outgoing transfers: 4,479
Net public transfers: -4,424
Non-public outgoing transfers: 2,743
Net students opting for alternatives = 7,167

Out of a total of 23,069 resident students who would, by default, attend South Bend schools, 15,847 do. That means less than 69% of South Bend resident students remained in their home public school system as of this fall.

Elkhart Community Schools followed a similar pattern for the last three years, according to the report. Here is what this year’s report looks like:

Reported in Fall of 2019-2020
Public incoming transfers: 331
Public outgoing transfers: 1,531
Net public transfers: -1,200
Non-public outgoing transfers: 391
Net students opting for alternatives = 1,591

Elkhart Community Schools superintendent provided this emailed statement to 16 News Now on Thursday afternoon:

"While today's report showing the 2019-2020 transfers is not where Elkhart Community Schools would ideally like to be, we're pleased at the improvement over last year. In the 2019-2020 school year, Elkhart had 136 fewer students choose to leave the district and an additional 25 choose to transfer into the district compared to 2018-2019. I'm proud and thankful more of our students and families are seeing the exciting changes we have at Elkhart and are coming home to Elkhart Schools." -Dr. Steve Thalheimer, Superintendent, Elkhart Community Schools.

16 News Now did not receive a response from South Bend Community School Corporation.

This is a developing story, so stay with us at 16 News Now as we dig deeper and learn more about why these districts are losing so many students.

The reports used to compile this information are linked on the side of this story.