School district enrollment greater than expected

Although not nearly as dire as officials at Archuleta School District 50 Joint had anticipated, enrollment numbers for the district are down just slightly from the 2007-2008 school year.

The numbers, compiled earlier this month, show total enrollment in the district to be down by 19 students. During the summer, district officials were estimating decreases upwards of a hundred students or more. Considering that state funding for the district is based on enrollment numbers, a loss of 19 students is relatively good news, albeit not great news.

According to district finance director Janell Wood, the drop in enrollment amounts to a $126,027 loss in state funding. However, Wood stated that, “The funding shortfall in state equalization will not impact the budget this year because the board adopted a budget with expectations of losing funding for 100 students, not the 19 that our numbers currently show.”

State funding for districts is not a simple matter of dollars-per-pupil, Wood explained, and several variables are involved in determining how the state bases funding on enrollment. Nonetheless, due to budgeting based on the school board’s estimate of lower enrollment numbers, the district should not have to struggle this year to meet its bills.

Furthermore, enrollments at some buildings in the district are up from last year. Elementary school enrollment showed the largest increase, from 506 last year to 528 this year, an increase of 22 students. The high school also showed a slight increase, three students, from 464 last year to 467 this year. The alternate high school showed a slight decrease, six students, with 47 enrolled this year versus 53 last year. The junior high school lost one student, dropping to 253 this year. The biggest drop was at the intermediate school — this year’s 231 enrolled down from last year’s 268, down 12 students.

“I anticipated it (enrollment count) to look lower,” said district superintendent Mark DeVoti, “ I wanted it to be up a bit, but we’re fine.

“We were down 100 students last year and when we looked at the local economy, we figured it would be a lot worse than it was. We planned for a much lower number. Bottom line is, this is great.”

DeVoti pointed out that the district receives about $3,500 per student,

How the current economic situation will effect growth in Archuleta County is anyone’s guess. Moreso, how growth (or lack, thereof) affects school enrollment figures in the near future is apparently anything but an exact science. Fortunately, planning for the worst and hoping for the best seems to have been the district’s strategy in averting a financial crisis.

jim@pagosasun.com