Enrollment in Alexandria public schools dropped less than expected for the second year in a row, a development one official attributed to the transfer of some students from private schools and an influx of immigrant and refugee families.

A report released to the School Board last night says 10,218 students were expected to show up for school this year, but 10,543 have enrolled so far, about 1.8 percent fewer than last year.

Assistant Superintendent James P. Akin said many "parents are taking a good hard look at tuition costs versus the quality we are providing free of cost in the public schools" and are deciding to send their children to public schools. He also said many of the unanticipated students this year are from refugee and immigrant families new to the area. He said he had no figures yet as to how many of the new public school students transferred from private schools or are children of immigrant families.

The city's school enrollment has been dropping steadily since it reached a peak of 16,566 in 1971.

"There has been a decline, but this is the second year in a row where the decline has been very slow," said Superintendent Robert W. Peebles. "I think this may be a change in the trend."

Last year, enrollment dropped by less than 1 percent to 10,734 students.

Peebles predicted that the new enrollment figures will ease some of the pressure to close schools from tax-conscious residents and City Council members who are looking for a way to cut the school budget.