Enrollment in Abilene Public Schools is lower than expected, Superintendent Greg Brown told Abilene school board members during a special meeting Monday morning.
Brown made his remarks prior to the budget hearing where members adopted a $29,235,178 total budget for the 2020-21 school year based on a 51.894 mill levy. The levy is down slightly from 2019-20 when it was set at 52.264 mills.
“Everything is based on base state aid per pupil and headcount,” Brown explained, speaking about the budget. “Base state aid is going up. That was determined by the Supreme Court a couple years ago. This year we’re looking at $4,569 per student. That’s about a 3 percent increase (in state aid).”
Kansas school districts get revenue from four funds: General, Supplemental General (Local Option Budget), Capital Outlay and Bond and Interest.
USD 435’s 2020-21 budget is based on a headcount of 1,485 students with extra money based on weighted enrollment — funding for students deemed at risk (free and reduced lunch and other factors), special education, transportation, bilingual students and those involved in career and technical education.
But on Aug. 24, only 1,333 students had enrolled, much fewer than the number anticipated.
“Early enrollment considerations have got me a little bit on the edge of my seat this year starting out,” Brown said. “But that’s what we’re going to have to deal with. It’s not what you like to see.”
Thirty-eight students had not yet enrolled. Fifteen of those were juniors and seniors.
But of the students who are enrolled, 81 are attending school from home using remote learning, which means they still count as full-time students, but are not attending classes in the buildings.
Brown noted that remote learning students still count toward the district’s full-time equivalency, but it’s imperative that parents and/or guardians fill out the log sheets that prove the students are attending classes.
Board Member Jeff Bathurst questioned if the district would receive extra money for the remote learners because “they would require more work” for teachers to instruct them virtually.
“Not now we don’t, but that may be something that gets revisited someday in Topeka,” Brown replied.
However, the district does receive extra funding for students enrolled in virtual school. That’s a different type of online program that’s been offered by the district for a number of years. The district receives $5,000 per student for full-time students involved in the virtual program.
More than 40 students are being home schooled this year. Home schooling typically is a faith-based program totally unconnected with Abilene Public Schools.
Preschool numbers down
Enrollment numbers also dropped in Abilene’s new preschool program which is in its inaugural year. Twenty-six were signed up as of Monday.
“We had several of those pull out the last 10 days or so for various reasons,” Brown said.
The Superintendent commented that preschool enrollment would be about 30 students maximum, because the district must have available space if any special education preschoolers needed to enroll.
Board Vice President Randy Gassman noted the district probably would be losing some money on its preschool program, but felt it is something the public wants.
Brown agreed, explaining the district only gets about half full-time equivalency funding for a preschool student, but said the preschool option has been “pretty well received.”
Based on the lower enrollment numbers, Brown said administrative staff would re-evaluate spending at the building level and district office to bring down costs, looking at a 10 percent cut.
“It will be doable and we’ll be fine, but you can’t just go into things blindly and crazy,” Brown said.
Kansas school districts received funding based on the number of students enrolled on Sept. 20 — the official count day.
“It would be really outstanding if we start up school and this COVID thing takes care of itself and lots of people come back,” Brown said. “That would be tremendous. But Sept. 20 may be a little early for seeing that.”
Contact Kathy Hageman at email@example.com.