Enrollment in Fort Wayne Community Schools is projected to surpass enrollment in Indianapolis Public Schools this year, making it Indiana's largest school district.
Preliminary numbers show the Fort Wayne district has 30,622 students, or about 500 more than a preliminary enrollment of 30,128 for IPS.
Final enrollment numbers won't be confirmed until later this year.
IPS has experienced a gradual decline in enrollment in recent years, allowing the Fort Wayne district to catch up.
The Indianapolis district had posted an enrollment of 33,521 students in 2009. As recently as 2002, IPS had about 8,600 more students than the Fort Wayne district.
Indiana uses the enrollment number from districts' fall-count day to calculate funding for districts. The preliminary numbers submitted by every Indiana district must be reconciled by state education officials.
OfficialS said Fort Wayne's and Indianapolis' public school districts are not as distressed as some had anticipated. Both districts predicted losses resulting in part from the state's expansion of private school vouchers and additional charter schools opening.
Fort Wayne Community Schools lost about 350 students compared with last year, mostly students transferring to private schools accepting vouchers, said district spokeswoman Krista Stockman.
"We budgeted for a loss of about 500 students, and while it's certainly not a good thing to lose 350, we feel we are holding relatively steady," Stockman said.
The district actually had a net gain of 10 charter students, meaning more students returned to Fort Wayne Community Schools from charter schools than the number who left to attend charter schools, she said.
Indiana took over four IPS schools in May and placed them under the administration of two special management teams that will oversee the schools, also diverting millions in funding away from IPS.
Sixty percent of the students in those four schools decided to stay with IPS by enrolling in one of the district's magnet schools or a boundary IPS school, said IPS spokesman John Althardt.
"We were very encouraged by that," he said.
Althardt said the Indianapolis district has worked hard to earn parents' trust and stay competitive against both charter schools and voucher offers. IPS' figures show a slight increase in the number of kindergarten students, which proves the hard work is paying off, Althardt said.
The same education choices exist in Allen County, including a disproportionate number of private schools compared with the rest of the state, Stockman said. Last year, the state issued 392 vouchers in Allen County alone, she said.
Although it's possible that becoming the largest district in Indiana could bring added clout with legislators who draft education policy and budget, the Fort Wayne district will continue on the path that has brought it a number of recent successes, Stockman said.