First ‘hard numbers’ reflect true beginning of ‘post-Alcoa’ era

Monday’s enrollment figures for the Rockdale ISD represent one of those whistling-past-the-graveyard milestones, the kind where you take a deep breath when it’s over.


Rockdale ISD enrolled 1,663 students on Monday. That’s only 12 less than the 1,677 who started the 2009-10 school year. That, of course, was the first school year since the closing of Alcoa’s Rockdale Operations.

But the 2009-10 enrollment, which was actually up five students from the previous year, wasn’t viewed as a true test of the impact of Alcoa’s closing on the Rockdale area.

That’s due, in great part, to the supplementary unemployment benefit (SUB) pay which laid-off Alcoans began receiving as layoffs started in 2008 and extended into the early months of 2009.

This time around the 2010-11 enrollment provides a much more accurate gauge of just how many people actually left Rockdale because Alcoa closed its smelter.

All the numbers up to now have been guesses. The 1,663 students who showed up Monday are not guesses. They’re real and reflect real trends.

So, everything is fine? Alcoa’s closing hasn’t hurt Rockdale at all? Of course not. You don’t lose 1,000 jobs in a place this size and not take a hit.

But the enrollment figures are certainly the first good, hard numbers which show Rockdale is pretty much holding its own. Given the magnitude of what has happened, “holding its own” is not an outcome, two years in, to be dismissed.

School officials tried to track enrollment trends over the past year and found, no surprise, that some families did leave town because of the smelter’s shutdown.

But many stayed. In fact, a recent study by Workforce Solutions of Central Texas indicated more than half the 884 Alcoans officially listed on layoff were either working again or re-training.

The next significant “hard numbers” could come when the Census Bureau tells us how many Rockdale residents it counted this spring.—M.B.

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