Low enrollment worries Eagle County School District | VailDaily.com

Low enrollment worries Eagle County School District

Sarah Mausolf
Vail, CO Colorado
Special to the Daily

EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – New enrollment figures show more students leaving the Eagle County School District than officials expected.

The latest numbers show 100 fewer students enrolled in the district than officials projected.

“This is certainly not good news,” Superintendent Sandra Smyser said Wednesday.

If the trend holds steady through Oct. 1 – the date the district turns in its enrollment figures to the state – the district could come up $700,000 short in state funding for the school year.

The amount of state funding the district gets each year hinges on how many students are enrolled.

District officials had budgeted for 6,068 students, but the actual numbers were resting at 5,968 as of Wednesday.

“This is a big blow,” the district’s Chief Financial Officer Phil Onofrio said.

The district is not yet sure how it would close a $700,000 gap.

“We are going to try to cut the budget where we can and we are going to try to adjust staffing where we can but we don’t think we can cover the whole shortage,” Onofrio said.

The district could dip into its reserve fund, which contains about $12 million, Onofrio said. Another possible source of funding is federal money districts are receiving to help avert layoffs, Onofrio said.

School officials have long feared the recession would prompt students to leave the valley. Up until a few weeks ago, though, early signs had district officials hopeful enrollment would stay flat or even rise a little compared with last year.

Once school actually opened, though, it became clear a number of families recently moved away.

“It’s an odd time of year for people to be moving,” Smyser said. “It could be they were leaving in August but we just didn’t know until school started.”

At the elementary schools, enrollment is down 48 students compared with the district’s projections. Edwards, Red Hill and Avon elementary schools fell the furthest below the projections. The high schools are down 25 students compared with the projections.

New America School had expected to enroll 100 students but, as of Sept. 22, had only enrolled 46 students.

Enrollment is always hard to predict, Onofrio said.

Last year on Oct. 1, the district’s enrollment had been 6,036, he said. The district budgeted for an increase of 32 students this year – a far less drastic boost than the increase the state had projected for the district. The state expected Eagle County public schools to gain 163 students. Further complicating the projection, the district’s enrollment has been steadily increasing by anywhere from 192 to 290 students each year since 2007, Onofrio said.

So he figured the district was playing it safe with a projected increase of 32 students.

“We thought we were being pretty conservative,” Onofrio said. “We thought until about two weeks ago that we were going to be up a little. This is a surprise.”

As of Wednesday, the district’s enrollment had been resting at 31 fewer students than the last year on Sept. 11 and 68 fewer students than last year on Oct. 1.

Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or smausolf@vaildaily.com.

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