Enrollment is up by 21 students from last year in the Ashland School District, thanks to an influx of out-of-district students who registered through the open enrollment program. But it fell short of the figure around which administrators built this year's budget.
After receiving 102 open enrollment applications, the district registered just 60 new students, bringing its overall enrollment figure to 2,721. The district's budget is based on an enrollment of 2,749.
"It's a mixed bag, in terms of what's going on with our overall enrollment," said Superintendent Juli Di Chiro. "The not-so-rosy part of it is we developed our budget on a larger number of students, so we're going to have to take a look at the impact on our revenue."
Di Chiro said she couldn't comment on what effect the miscalculation might have until the state returns the district's average daily membership report, which will determine how much revenue it gets for the upcoming year.
Because school districts receive about $6,000 per student in state support annually, the 28-student shortfall could cost the district about $168,000.
The district is expecting a budget gap of more than $1 million heading into the 2013-15 biennium, said Di Chiro. About $700,000 of that will go toward Public Employee Retirement System pensions, after an increase in employer contribution rates was approved by the PERS board Sept. 28.
A larger-than-expected kindergarten class also helped boost this year's enrollment figure above the 2,700 students registered at the beginning of last academic year, a district report shows.
"I know it's harder on those kindergarten teachers, but having more kids at the kindergarten level is really good news for us from a financial standpoint," Di Chiro said.
The school district's overall class size is 24.56 students, which is less than a student under last year's average. The average class sizes of John Muir School and Walker Elementary decreased by about two students, and climbed by about one student at Helman Elementary and by less than a student at Bellview Elementary.
Initially, the district planned to hire an additional kindergarten teacher, Di Chiro said, but this year's kindergarten registration numbers didn't begin climbing until late August, too late to bring in a new teacher.
Two additional teachers were hired to support incoming open enrollment students at Walker Elementary and at the middle school to instruct sixth grade.
"We will be continuing to participate in open enrollment, but next time I will be a little bit more conservative about adding staff until we know those kids are with us," Di Chiro said.
Ashland High School's student population fell by 35 students to 989.
"Had we registered all of those open enrollment students, we would have been over our projection, which would have been a great place to be, but we didn't," she said. "We anticipated more kids, and we don't have them."
Di Chiro said she expects to have the district's average daily membership report in time to present during next month's school board meeting, at 7 p.m. Nov. 5 in the Ashland Council Chambers, 1175 E. Main St.
Reach reporter Sam Wheeler at 541-499-1470 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.