Seymour Community School Corp. officials had predicted and planned for significant growth in student enrollment this school year.
As of Tuesday, those students had not materialized, and the district is facing the exact opposite — the potential for declining enrollment, said Steve Nauman, corporation business manager.
He blames the situation on the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, saying he believes some families have opted to keep their children home and have not yet registered them for the district’s option for online learning.
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“I think they’re out there, and we’ll get them back,” Nauman said. “I just don’t know when.”
Nauman reported enrollment information during a school board meeting Tuesday night.
If there are no changes between now and the fall student count day on Sept. 18, Seymour is looking at having fewer students than it did from the last official count day in February.
“We are 62 students short from our spring count,” Nauman said. “If nothing changes before Friday, we are in declining enrollment for this corporation due to COVID.”
The bigger shock is officials had projected enrollment to grow by around 130 students this fall, and Nauman considered that a very conservative estimate.
“We were planning to be at 5,325 students and as of Sept. 3 we’re at 5,136, so we’re 189 students short of what I wrote this budget on,” he said. “As it stands, the 2021 budget will be exactly as it was for 2020.”
Fewer students, however, means the district will receive less in state funding this year, he added.
He said with the drop in enrollment, the corporation will receive $1,000 less from the state than it did last year, and that’s assuming all students will be counted at 100% funding.
“And I know that’s not going to be the case,” he said. “But I’m still hopeful we will get those 62 students, either enrolled online or in person, so we get back to at least where we were.”
Right now, Nauman said funding is “quite iffy” statewide. The state is allowing schools to use their February student count number to determine their level of funding for the school year.
By using those numbers, the district will not receive full funding for new kindergarten or virtual students. As of Sept 3, SCSC has enrolled 585 online students, and that number changes every day, Nauman added.
“In order to get 100% funding they had to have been here, in the classroom, so that means some of our students are only going to get 85% funding based on the current legislation,” he said.
Nauman is hoping that changes when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.
The corporation is currently receiving approximately $97,000 more in state support than it should be due to early enrollment projects. The state will adjust funding in November and take back around $400,000.
The loss of students is most noticeable at the elementary level, he added, with Emerson and Seymour-Redding Elementary schools showing the biggest drops in student enrollments with 24 and 27 fewer students respectively.
Margaret R. Brown Elementary is down 15 students and Seymour-Jackson Elementary is down two students. Cortland Elementary gained two students.
The middle school, grades 6-8, dropped eight students and the high school gained 12 students.
Nauman said the situation is reminiscent of when the school was in declining enrollment in 2017, which came at a surprise then too.
Two years later, the corporation reached a milestone, surpassing 5,000 students for the first time and growing by 361 students.
“It kind of makes me look back to three years ago, and everything we’ve worked for and gained since then,” he said.
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Seymour Community School Corp. enrollment
Feb. student count;679;140;345;630;675;1,202;1,527
Sept. 3 enrollment;664;142;321;628;648;1,194;1,539