Enrollment has leveled off in the South-Western City Schools and likely will remain basically unchanged for the next five years, school officials said this week.

Enrollment has leveled off in the South-Western City Schools and likely will remain basically unchanged for the next five years, school officials said this week.

Projections presented at the March 28 school board meeting estimate the district will have 19,892 students for the 2011-12 school year. That number could drop to 19,442 students by the 2015-16 school year. Estimates show 19,828 students for the 2012-13 school year, 19,777 for 2013-14 and 19,627 for 2014-15.

"We're seeing a leveling off," said Janice Collette, director of student services. "We'll be down about 400 students or so (by 2015-16). But it depends on the economy."

She said it's difficult to project with real accuracy because the situation could change over time. The best-case scenario for 2015-16 is that the number of students will stay the same as projected for the 2011-12 school year. The worst-case scenario is a drop to 18,922 students by then.

Collette said the district had its largest number of students -- 20,993 -- in 2006. She said starting in 2008, the economic downturn, coupled with the housing-market collapse, contributed to having fewer students.

After the meeting, superintendent Bill Wise said he thinks the main reason for the decline is that fewer students are moving into the district than in the past. He acknowledged, however, that repeated levy attempts and eliminating fall sports before last year's levy passed probably caused some families to leave the district.

During the meeting, Wise said it appears unlikely that any redistricting will be necessary during the next two or three years.

He and Collette said about 1,800 children living in the district attend charter schools.

The board meeting was held at Finland Middle School in the classroom of seventh-grade social studies teacher David Hampson, so board members could see how technology has improved instruction at the school.

Finland won a $250,000 federal stimulus grant last year and has used that money to install wireless Internet, buy items including notebook computers and SMART Boards.

Hampson can link his laptop computer to the SMART Board in his classroom and use a variety of computer applications to teach. Students can interact, take tests and do homework on the notebooks.

Hampson and principal Paul Smathers said many students already are technologically advanced.

"It's been an absolute blessing seeing students energized," Hampson said. "In the past, students didn't have (such) passion. ... The books have become more of a resource. I have students so much more engaged now."

Parents can access Hampson's school website to check on homework assignments and student progress.

"Kids see the growth. Parents see the growth. Teachers see the growth. (Technology is) a powerful tool," Smathers said.

After the meeting, Wise said the district is turning its full attention to getting a contract with the union representing classified workers.

A federal mediator has scheduled a negotiating session for April 11 between the district and the Ohio Association of Public School Employees Local 211, which represents about 950 bus drivers, food service workers and others.

The last talks were held Feb. 7.

Those workers have been working without a contract since June 30.

"We've had good conversations to this point. It's a matter of reaching agreement on the issues," Wise said.

Earlier this month, the South-Western Education Association, which represents about 1,400 teachers and other certified staffers, reached a new agreement with the district.

That three-year pact, retroactive to July 1, provides no base-pay raise this year, a 0.5-percent raise for the 2011-12 school year and a 1-percent raise the following year.

It also increases what those employees contribute to their health insurance coverage.

Teachers with single health coverage now will pay 7.5 percent of the cost. Teachers with family health insurance will continue to pay 35 percent of the cost.

About 85 unionized administrators last year reached a one-year agreement that provides no base-pay raises and increases what they contribute to health care.

More than half of the administrators and teachers still are eligible for step-pay increases, based largely on longevity and education.