School enrollment drops | NevadaAppeal.com

School enrollment drops

by Maggie O'Neill
Appeal Staff Writer

Official numbers received Friday confirmed what Carson City School District officials already suspected: Enrollment is declining.

“The overall total as is stands right now is 8,521 and that’s down from last year by 197 students,” said Mike Watty, associate superintendent for education services for the Carson City School District.

The bulk of that number, 137, comes from kindergarten through fifth grade.

“This has been projected,” Watty said. “When we look at the previous years’ numbers, we had some big classes that went though the high school and they kind of moved on, and we’ve had some smaller classes coming in.”

The district receives money from the state based on the number of students enrolled in each district on the third Friday of September every year.

“The per-pupil allocation is based on these numbers,” Watty said. “Monday, if we have 100 more students enrolled, we wouldn’t receive another cent. If we have 100 students drop out, we wouldn’t lose another cent.”

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But because of a funding situation called hold-harmless, districts can choose the highest enrollment numbers within two years. That means Carson City will be receive its per-pupil allotment based on enrollment numbers from the 2003-04 school year.

With per-pupil funding right around $5,000 per student, with a little less for kindergartners, the district would lose nearly $1 million if there was no two-year hold harmless.

“We’re not taking the hit totally this year, but two years from now, that’s where this figure will start to be used,” Watty said.

If enrollment declines again next year, that funding will be based on numbers from the 2004-05 year.

This is the third year of a downward trend, after more than 10 years of consecutive growth.

In 2003-04, enrollment dropped by 35 students and in 2004-05 by 81. This year’s enrollment is the largest decrease yet. District officials believe the enrollment is declining because of the cost of housing in Carson City.

“That’s the kind of the theory we’re going on,” Watty said. “We don’t have any empirical data to go on. From what we’re seeing from the demographer in Carson, we’re getting an older population – retirees, or those with older children.”

Enrollment also dropped this year in the Douglas County School District.

“And these counties seem to be similar in that respect, in terms of housing costs and all,” he said.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting Superintendent Mary Pierczynski apprised board members of the drop.

“Our young families are not buying here,” she said. “They’re buying in Lyon County.”

— Contact reporter Maggie O’Neill at moneill@nevadaappeal.com or 881-1219.