Student enrollment down at both school districts due to pandemic
Reflecting a statewide trend, preliminary pupil counts for Grand County schools show a significant drop in enrollment this year.
Statewide, the Colorado Department of Education is reporting a decrease in student numbers for the first time in more than 30 years. Based on early numbers from the annual October count, nearly 30,000 students have left Colorado’s public school system, equal to a 3.3% decrease.
East and West Grand school districts joined 141 of the state’s 178 school districts that saw a decline in enrollment compared to last year. At both Grand County schools districts, the proportion of students lost was greater than the state average.
According to the state numbers, West Grand School District has 35 fewer students this year compared to last, equal to a 8.6% decrease in students for the district. The preliminary count pegs 399 students at West Grand, which would drop enrollment below 400 students for the first time in at least a decade.
On the other side of the county with roughly three times as many pupils, East Grand schools saw 83 fewer students. Enrollment dropped 6.1% from last year for a total of 1,271 students in the district.
The Colorado Department of Education attributes the decreased enrollment to the pandemic, and East Grand Superintendent Frank Reeves pointed out that online schooling has seen enrollment double this year.
What’s most concerning to public schools is that state funding is largely determined by pupil counts.
“That’s going to add up to about $250 million that we’re fighting to keep in education somewhere, somehow, and not have it be taken away because there’s less kids,” Reeves explained of the funding at stake.
He added that it’s likely most, if not all, of these students could return for the 2021-22 school year if COVID is under control by then. A worst-case scenario, Reeves said, would be losing funding this year and then seeing student enrollment jump back up with not only the students lost this year returning but additional growth as well.
From 2016 to 2019, more than 100 additional students joined East Grand, growing the district’s student body by nearly 9% in that short span. This year’s count loses almost all that growth, but with this unique situation, it’s possible those numbers and more could return for the next school year.
If that happens, Reeves said school districts across Colorado will desperately need the funding that’s currently at risk.
“We’re fighting to keep that money in education somehow,” Reeves said.
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