Enrollment for school districts in Southeast Kansas tend to emulate roller coaster rides, as each district’s enrollment alternately rises for a few years, then declines for a few years before rising again.
This year, most districts in the area are reporting at least a slight increase in head counts following collection of enrollment information for the state Friday, with Parsons USD 503 seeing the greatest increase in enrollment.
Historically, USD 503 was the one district in the area that could not seem to catch an uphill ride, at least until recently.
Beginning in 1992, the district saw its enrollment continue to decline, being hardest hit in 2009 and 2010, losing 119 students and then 60 students, respectively.
The break in the enrollment loss for Parsons came in the 2011-12 school year, with an increase of 49 students. The following year the district saw only a slight increase in head count of two students, but celebrated no loss in enrollment for a second year.
USD 503 superintendent Shelly Martin is thrilled the district is continuing on its third year of an upward trend in enrollment, with the district seeing an increase of 61 more students in its head count.
“It is a big jump,” she said. “We’re really feeling good about it. The biggest jump is in the freshmen class. We have the biggest freshman class we’ve had in a long time, with 127 students. We also saw a large increase in second-grade students, interestingly enough. Our pre-kindergarten programs all remain full as well, so that’s good.”
In regard to the increase in enrollment, Martin said the district regained some students it had formerly lost. As well, some new students are coming in from area districts and a few from out of the area.
“We have quite a few programs offered that are not offered at other schools, like concurrent enrollment and college credit and career pathways that are different, so we have some students coming here for specific things,” Martin said. “We have 57 out-of-district students. Some of them have been with us all along for different reasons, such as their parents work here. The bulk are from Labette County, but we have some from Neosho County and one from Pittsburg. Some are from private schools or were being home schooled.
“They come from lots of different places, but they’re coming and that’s the good part,” Martin said. “No matter why they are here, we are happy to have them and we’ll do the best job with each of them that we can.”
The enrollment information collected annually on Sept. 20 is the beginning of a week-long audit of information provided to the state, which is used to determine per-pupil funding and to calculate weighted enrollment. Additional funding is based on transportation for students living more than 2 1/2 miles from school, students in at-risk preschool programs, vocational students, special-education students, number of students receiving free and reduced lunches and bilingual students. Preliminary enrollment and weighting numbers are not considered official until verified by the state.
Full-time equivalency numbers differ from head count numbers because for funding purposes the state only counts kindergarten students as one-half of a full-time student, unless they receive special education services. The state will only reimburse districts’ funding for 12 preschool students. Expenditures for all other preschool students in a district, preschool teachers, materials and operating costs are not compensated for by the state like kindergarten students.
Because of the complexity in figuring weighted enrollment, most schools do not yet have their FTE (full-time equivalency) numbers figured.
Erie USD 101 superintendent Steve Woolf said preliminary figures showed a slight increase in head count for Erie schools as well, the second consecutive year the district enrollment has risen.
“We have 544 students in pre-K through 12th grade and another 12 students enrolled in our virtual school for a total of 556 students, so compared to last year we are up eight students,” Woolf said. “That’s a good head count. That’s 544 students that get to be educated in 21st Century Mayberry. It’s a great place to raise and educate kids.”
Chetopa-St. Paul USD 505 remained fairly level this year, but showed a slight increase in head count of about four students, from 480 to 484, superintendent Susan Beeson said. The small increase is reflective of last year, when USD 505’s enrollment increased by six students. The continued increase, though minimal, is good news for the district, which is located in an area that in the past has been affected by outward migration.
Oswego USD 504 saw an increase in enrollment of nearly a dozen students this year, recovering a little more than half the 20 students lost the prior year.
“Overall the district, pre-K though 12th grade, has a total head count of 488. That is up for us, overall,” said superintendent Mark LaTurner. “We are up 11 students and it looks like the FTE is 461, which is up 15 from last year, but that is without figuring all the weighting.”
“We are happy to see the increase. We hope the trend continues,” LaTurner said. “Our kindergarten class is a little larger this year, and they will turn into full-time students next year.”
Not all districts received good news from enrollment data.
Altamont USD 506 was the hardest hit district in the area, with a loss in head count of 80 students.
Last year, then interim superintendent Skip Landis reported the district’s head count was 1,690. New superintendent John Wyrick reported Monday the head count for the district this year is 1,610 for pre-K through 12th grade.
For the 2012-13 year, USD 506 decreased by about 58 students in FTE, despite its head count increasing from 1,679 to 1,690. The increased head count was related to the district opening a couple more preschools, but those new preschool students were not counted by the state towards FTE funding.
Wyrick reported Monday that enrollment figures for the district’s schools were as follows: Altamont Grade School — 242; Bartlett Grade School — 120; Edna Grade School — 159; Meadow View — 414; Mound Valley — 173; and Labette County High School — 502, for a total head count of 1,610.
Wyrick could not be reached for comment before deadline Monday.
Cherryvale USD 447 reported a decline in enrollment as well. Superintendent Randy Wagoner said the district is calculating a loss of around 20 to 30 students.
Cherryvale had been seeing increases in enrollment or was remaining fairly level in enrollment in recent years, so after reviewing the figures this year, Wagoner said, “It’s kind of disappointing.”
“It looks like 874 is this year’s head count and last year’s was 881.” He said the loss is greater than the head count numbers represent.
“Based on my figures, we are closer to being down 20 students instead of 30, but that is still a significant number for us as a smaller district,” Wagner said. “The biggest drop we saw was in the high school level. I looked into it and it appears they left for a variety of reasons. We lost 13 out of one class, freshmen to sophomores. A lot of them left because their parents moved to find jobs. But, I think we’ll be fine.”