After years of inflated enrollment projections, Howard County Schoolof Technology officials are now anticipating anything from a slight drop to a possible gain of 100 students for next fall.
The 1991-1992 figures are crucial because 11 teachers at the School of Technology are among 24 in county schools who have been told that low enrollment in their programs could mean layoffs or cutbacks from full- to half-time jobs.
But the situation now is far less grim than it appeared when the notices went out in April, James R. McGowan, associate superintendent for administration and instruction, said Tuesday.
"We are probably going to have significantly fewer people affected" than originallythought, McGowan said. He said the number could be as low as one or two School of Technology teachers.
A career exploration program proposed by School of Technology principal Mary J. Day could save theirjobs. The recruiting program would allow 10th-and 11th-grade students to sample possible careers. Day was scheduled to meet with faculty members late Tuesday to go over the program.
Student registration figures for the 1991-1992 school year supplied by Day indicate that enrollment will be between 569 and 597 when school opens in September.Current enrollment is 596.
But a boost could come from the 113 students that Day lists as now enrolled in School of Technology programs but not yet registered for the coming school year.
If all those students sign up -- and school officials say that some always wait until the last minute to register -- vocational programs would show thefirst major increase since 1981, when enrollment peaked at 1,149.
Day's figures show 597 students registered for School of Technology programs next fall. But the registration figures she supplied for individual programs total only 569. Day said Tuesday that she had not checked the numbers and did not know whether they contained an arithmetic error.
Which programs would suffer teacher cuts has not been decided. McGowan said most of the cuts under consideration are reductions from full- to half-time rather than elimination of the program. A vocational program now offered in both morning and afternoon sessions, for example, might be offered only in one session for 1991-1992.
Most of the programs under consideration for cutbacks or eliminationshow enrollment losses, but cosmetology is an exception.
The program, which employs three instructors who prepare students to take statewide licensing exams to become hair stylists, has grown from 70 students in 1989-1990 to 98 this year and has 106 registered for 1991-1992.
Neither McGowan nor Day would answer why cosmetology may be cut back, and each referred the question to the other.
The school isalso expected to lose one of four work experience coordinators because of shrinking enrollment.
The School of Technology has a decade-long history of enrollment projections that were as much as one-thirdhigher than the actual number of students who entered each year.
The school's enrollment projections for the following year are published annually in the school budget, along with actual enrollment for the previous and current years.
John A. Myers, executive supervisorof vocational education and the person responsible for the projections, says they were inflated "probably because I'm very optimistic. Since 1984, we've been in a marketing mode (for vocational programs). Ikept believing that the numbers were going to increase."
Instead,enrollment continued to drop even as Howard County vocational students won state and national awards and despite continuing demand for trained graduates from community employers.
Enrollment for 1985-1986was projected at 1,173 students; 780 enrolled. The projection for 1986-1987 was 875 students;779 enrolled.
In 1987-1988, the projection was 153 students too high; in 1988-1989, it was 114 too high; in 1989-1990, it was 86 too high.
Myers says that although some career opportunities were slowed by the recession this year, until six months ago he had between 7 and 10 job openings for every graduating student.
School of Technology programs have been struggling with decreasing or flat high school enrollment, with an erroneous perception that vocational training is a dead-end in a county where 80 percent of high school graduates head for higher education, and with a schedule that requires students to commit half a school day to the technical program.
Myers said the 1991-1992 school budget erroneously reports that current enrollment is 670 -- which was the projection. The figure should be 596. Myers blamed the error on a proofreading mistake he made.
Myers said he is trying to make enrollment projections more accurate. But Myers' optimistic enrollment projections more accurate.
COURSE REGISTRATION AT SCHOOL OF TECHNOLOGY
.. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Registered.. .. .. .. Not enrolled
Program .. .. .. .. ..for 1991-1992.. .. .. .. next year
Air-conditioning* .. .. .. .17.. .. .. .. .. .. .. . 6