October 15, 2007 in City

School enrollment still down

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Less funding

The loss of more than 600 students means less money from the state. The district has made up for about $1 million in lost funding by reducing the number of temporary teachers.

Spokane Public Schools is still missing more than 600 students compared with last year, even though some students returned by the official October enrollment count.

District officials had reported that 851 fewer students walked through the doors at the start of the school year – more than double the expected drop in enrollment.

By Oct. 1 about 224 of those 851 full-time students had returned, district officials say.

The district had projected that enrollment would grow by about 170 students between September and October, so “we ended up growing more than the average,” said Mark Anderson, associate superintendent for school support services.

The district is still short of budgeted enrollment by 606 students, and that means fewer dollars from the state.

In September, Anderson said the loss of students would create an additional budget hole of about $1.7 million – on top of the $10.8 million the district already shaved this year by cutting programs and staff.

About $1 million of that budget hole has been filled by terminating temporary teachers hired at the beginning of the school year, officials said.

Of greater concern is how the district will plan for next year, officials said – especially since they’re still perplexed about where the students went.

This year’s enrollment decline is a record and doesn’t appear to follow any trends, although there is some speculation.

Some principals, especially from schools in the northeast corridor of Spokane, said enrollment drops may be attributed to the loss of affordable housing.

The district plans to hire a demographer, as part of its facilities study, to examine housing markets within its boundaries, Anderson said.

“That’s not our area of expertise, and will help to explain” some of the enrollment issues, he said.

Enrollment in the Central Valley School District is up again this year, with 11,706 full-time students by Oct. 1, but slightly off budget, said Melanie Rose, district spokeswoman.

“We didn’t have as many elementary students as we were expecting,” Rose said, although middle school numbers rose slightly.

“It’s hard to say why,” she said, “you just open your doors and enroll whoever walks in them.”

Districts have no clear way of tracking where students went or where they came from, which adds to the inability to accurately predict enrollment patterns, said Craig Numata, a budget and accounting supervisor for Spokane Public Schools.

“It’s not required anywhere that if you are moving to a new school that you request records from your old school, particularly for kids moving out of state,” Numata said. Often report cards or transcripts are enough to register, he said.

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