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Washington Voices

Enrollment holds steady at Freeman, Liberty

The number of students enrolled at the Freeman and Liberty School districts is holding remarkably steady.

Student numbers are crucial to districts. The state pays $5,000 for each full-time student, providing the lion’s share of a district’s income. Each spring, districts estimate how many students will enroll in the fall and budget accordingly. A huge drop in enrollment means the district will have too many teachers on staff and not enough money to pay for them. A steep increase forces a district to scramble and hire teachers at the last minute.

This year, Liberty counted 448 students when it budgeted for 444. A few more students will be counted when Running Start students are added to the tally. “We finished the year last year at 454,” said Superintendent Bill Motsenbocker. “We’ve had issues with declining enrollment in our area. We just went ahead and planned on having 10 fewer kids, but that hasn’t panned out. We actually gained some kids last year and things have been starting to pick up.”

The district has lost an average of 13 students every year for the last 13 years, he said. This year’s bump is a welcome sight, he said. “It makes life a lot easier if your enrollment is going up and not down.”

Freeman, by luck or extremely good guessing, has 850 students, exactly the number the district budgeted for. “We’d like to be a few over budget,” said Superintendent Sergio Hernandez. “We’re pleased with where we are, but we’d always like to be over budget.”

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