Enrollment is slightly up for Summit School District despite statewide trend of declining numbers

Increase brings more revenue — and more need for spending

School buses are pictured at the Summit School District's bus barn. The school district saw a slight increase in its enrollment for the 2022-2023 school year compared to the previous year despite the statewide trend of decreasing numbers.
Tripp Fay/Summit Daily News archive

Amid reports of decreased funding for Colorado school districts due to a dip in enrollment, the Summit School District is reporting a slight increase in its student numbers — and with it a need for more budgetary spending.

According to the district’s Chief Financial Officer Kara Drake, enrollment for the 2022-2023 school year was 3,633 — 13 students higher than 2021-2022’s enrollment of 3,620. The data was presented during the district’s Board of Education meeting Jan. 31. 

“We’re one of the very few school districts in Colorado that had a growth in enrollment this year,” Drake said. “Most districts had a decline in enrollment.”

The district did see a slight dip in its kindergarten count, according to Drake, who called the decrease “a trend that we’re seeing all over Colorado” as the state grapples with declining birth rates. 

For many districts, it created a reduction in enrollment numbers that have decreased per-pupil funding from the state. But for Summit, the small increase brings with it an additional $935,000 — the majority of which the district plans to spend on additional operating needs, Drake said. 

That includes accounting for larger-than-expected high school classes, technology upgrades to help slow internet problems, new math materials and additional funding for substitute teachers.

“We’re very fortunate that we have some additional revenue coming this year and are able to use that to support all of these needs,” Drake said. 

The additions to this year’s general fund spending come as district leaders are already eyeing spending priorities for the 2023-2024 school year. Those will include investments in reading, writing and math to meet the district’s goals of boosting success in those areas for younger students. 

“There will be a very significant focus on getting all kids to read in kindergarten through third grade,” said Superintendent Tony Byrd. “We have a whole team right now looking at math and putting together proposals for what we should do related to math, and that’s based on our concerns about some of the math data that we came to you all about in the fall.”

Other programs include the recently-passed proposal to provide universal free meals to all public school students across Colorado. Known as the Healthy School Meals for All ballot measure — which was approved by Colorado voters in the November 2022 election — the program continues a pandemic-era policy that made all school meals free to students nationwide regardless of income through additional government funding. 

While the federal program has since ended after Congress did not approve the additional funding in its 2022 spending bill, Colorado’s state government will now offer school districts the option of opting into its own program. But some challenges remain, according to Drake. 

While Colorado voters approved the program, they also OKed a reduction in the state income tax.

“The assumption of funding at the state level was made before the reduction in taxes,” Drake said, so now the state’s budget is going to be stretched tighter in trying to find this.”

Because of this, Drake said districts are being encouraged to continue enrolling families in the federally-funded free and reduced meals — an income-based program that provides meals at a lower cost or free of charge to some families. The more families enrolled, the less money the state has to provide to districts to make up the difference for free meals.

“We’re still going to ask families to apply for free and reduced lunch as much as possible, although free meals will be available to everyone,” Drake said.

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