As "count day" approaches, Delta County Joint School District #50 administrators are hoping to fill a gap in enrollment that will leave the district hundreds of thousands of dollars short in state funding.
Each fall school districts across the state provide an official count of students which determines how much funding each school district will receive.
In Delta County, per-pupil funding is $6,325.
Administrators were feeling cautious when they developed the 2013-14 budget, so they calculated a drop in enrollment of 20. The reality is looking closer to 90 in traditional schools and about 175 for the Vision Charter Academy.
Assistant superintendent Kurt Clay delivered the bad news at the Sept. 19 school board meeting.
"It's a big hit," he said. The district could be forced to trim about $600,000 from an already tight budget. The school district has already been forced to dip into reserves and forgo salary increases, opting instead to award every employee a 1% one-time stipend.
Amy Miller, director of community relations for the Vision Charter Academy, said they anticipate some transfers that will bring enrollment up somewhat "but certainly we are down more than we would like to be."
"We serve a similar population, so we're looking at a lot of what the school district is dealing with — families moving out of the area, families choosing traditional schools in Delta and Montrose counties," she said.
Some families are also "waiting out" the transition from the Vision Home & Community Program to Vision Charter Academy which took place over the summer.
"We have some families waiting to see how it settles out," Miller said. "We hope to see them back next year."
Colorado Department of Education mandates are partially responsible for some of the hesitancy, Miller said. The biggest change has been the oversight of independent contractors.
"Families used to have the option of picking any educator for their children," Miller said. "Now those educators have to go through an approval process, including a background check."
Families that don't want to jump through the hoops have gone back to homeschooling.
"We're focusing on putting into place really solid practices, so they'll see it's not as different as it would appear on paper," Miller said. "We can still offer some pretty remarkable opportunities for their kids."
The Vision Charter Academy created one umbrella for three existing campuses — Surface Creek, Delta and North Fork. Miller said the Surface Creek campus has seen the biggest drop in enrollment, percentagewise, because this fall the school district started a branch of Delta Opportunity School at Cedaredge High School, creating another option for at-risk high schoolers in the Surface Creek.
Enrollment in traditional schools was briefly reviewed with school board members at last week's meeting, but the numbers will not be released to the public until after the October count, Clay said. He later led a discussion on a proposal to move the North Fork Community Montessori School from Hotchkiss to Crawford, to address the continued decline in enrollment at Crawford and create an "economy of scale" (see related story on page B1).blog comments powered by Disqus