Summit School District sees drop in enrollment, hopes funding is preserved at state level |

Summit School District sees drop in enrollment, hopes funding is preserved at state level

A student air high-fives Silverthorne Elementary Assistant Principal Ann-Mari Westerhoff on the first day of school Thursday, Aug. 27.
Photo by Liz Copan / Studio Copan

The Summit School District has seen a 3.58% overall drop in enrollment from 2019 to 2020, according to preliminary enrollment data.

The drop in enrollment is in line with a national trend, as parents opt to not have their students in public school during the novel coronavirus pandemic. Across the state public school enrollment declined 3.3%, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

The drop in enrollment comes with an increase in the number of students participating in homeschooling. In 2019 around 47 students in Summit County were homeschooled. In 2020, that number nearly doubled, with 94 students participating in home school, said district spokesperson Mikki Grebetz.

“With this being such an uncertain year with the pandemic, I think some families chose a homeschooling option for the health and safety of their family,” Grebetz said.

Grebetz added that the district has worked to accommodate students who are not comfortable going to school in person by providing a remote learning option. Of the 3,454 students enrolled this year, 360 are participating in remote learning, she said.

The number of students enrolled has an effect on the district’s funding, which is mostly allocated per pupil. At this moment, the district doesn’t know how the drop in enrollment will fully impact funding. That will be determined by decisions made at the state level, said Kara Drake, the district’s chief financial officer.

Overall, the drop in enrollment has led to a $121 million loss in school funding across Colorado, according to reporting by the Colorado Sun. However, in that same Colorado Sun article, state legislatures said they are dedicated to maintaining current funding for school districts.

“At this time, it’s still a little bit unknown because we really won’t know our final per pupil funding until the state does their supplemental budget, which won’t be finalized until the spring,” Drake said.

She added that the district is hoping state legislatures will decide to offset the drop in funding to help districts stay afloat. The district isn’t alone in its enrollment drop. Of the 178 districts in the state, 141 saw a drop in enrollment and only 40 saw an increase.

“The school districts are hoping that they will keep that funding in K-12 education and will change our per pupil funding rates,” Drake said.

Drake said the drop in enrollment didn’t come as a surprise. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the district has been preparing itself for fewer students.

“We’ve been seeing this since the beginning of the school year,” she said. “We do monitor our enrollment before we do the official count … So we knew that it was coming, we didn’t know exactly what the final numbers would be but we knew we would see less enrollment this year because of the pandemic.”

Right now, the district is in a stable place financially, as federal and state coronavirus relief funding has offset added costs from pandemic related expenses, including the programs used for remote learning.

Drake said the district has committed to providing the remote learning option for the remainder of the school year. However, it’s unclear if the district will continue that program past the school year without the CARES Act dollars available to help fund it.

While it awaits final word on the impact of enrollment numbers on its funding, the district is working to get students back in their classrooms, Grebetz said. The district plans to have students return to the hybrid learning model starting on Jan. 11.

“Right now, some of the highest priorities for families are physical health and safety as well as mental health and safety,” she said. “For Summit School District, our goal is to stay in person as much as possible. We all know that mental health can be best supported when scholars are learning in person together.”

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