WALLA WALLA — Local school districts are seeing a mixed trend of enrollment in the new school year, with some having gains after years of sliding numbers, and others having enrollment drop following years of growth.
With the start of the new school year comes the need for districts to collect enrollment data, which is then used by the state to determine funding. Over the summer, when budgets are prepared and approved, districts must provide enrollment estimates for the coming year that aim to be close to actual enrollment figures. Enrollment is directly tied to state funding and numbers that are close to the estimates are key for districts to sustain programs throughout the year.
In Washington state, districts provide enrollment figures from the fourth day of school in September, and then again for the first school day of each month from October through May, according to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. In Oregon, districts will offer a snapshot of enrollment taken from Oct. 1.
Walla Walla Public Schools saw enrollment drop so far for the 2012-13 school year, following years of growth. The district reports it is 48 students below its general fund budget targets, with numbers mainly dropping in the elementary grades.
Chief Financial Officer Pat Johnston reported to the School Board this month that close to $245,000 may be cut from state funding to the district if the enrollment drop holds steady. The district has about $200,000 reserved in contingency funds to make up for potential cuts from the state.
The district will continue to track enrollment each month to see if the declining trend continues, and if any cuts will need to be instated.
College Place Public Schools enrollment has held steady, and saw an increase this fall following years of decreases.
The district is up slightly from last year, with about 736 full-time equivalent students enrolled this fall compared to 734 a year ago.
The number shows an overall increase in the district over the last three years. College Place had a high of about 806 students in 2003-04, then saw those figures drop to a low of about 693 in the 2009-10 school year. The district has seen enrollment gradually go up since then.
The Milton-Freewater School District has also seen a drop in enrollment from previous years. The district’s 1,917 students this fall is 43 less than last year. Interim Superintendent Jim Reger provided the enrollment figures to the M-F School Board during its September meeting.
The district had a high enrollment of 2,047 students in September 2007, but saw that figure drop by February of 2007 with a loss of about 55 students.
The Athena-Weston School District has seen enrollment go up from last year. Superintendent Jerry Copeland said the district is up about 27 students from last year.
During the 2011-12 school year, the district started with 511 students and finished with about 532. The 2012-13 school year shows an additional gain, with 559 enrolled.
Copeland said growth is occuring at the elementary level. This fall the district welcomed its largest kindergarten class, with 52 students.
The Columbia School District in Burbank has about 811 full-time equivalent students this fall, and a head count of about 874. The 811 figure is slightly below last year’s fall figure of about 814 students, but still higher than the 2010-11 enrollment of 792.
Superintendent Lou Gates said the slight decrease still reflects overall growth from past years. Gates said most of the growth has occurred in the elementary grades, which allowed the district to hire additional teachers this year.