Student enrollment numbers dip in Re-1 district | AspenTimes.com

Student enrollment numbers dip in Re-1 district

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

John Stroud/Post IndependentStudents file out of Crystal River Elementary School in Carbondale after school on Thursday. Enrollment in Roaring Fork district Re-1 schools is down about 150 students this fall compared to the beginning of last school year.

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Roaring Fork Re-1 district schools opened with about 150 fewer students this fall compared to the official October 2009 enrollment count of roughly 5,000 for Glenwood Springs, Carbondale and Basalt.

However, the drop in student numbers actually began over the course of the last school year as the effects of the national recession took a toll locally, Re-1 Assistant Superintendent of Business Shannon Pelland said.

And the recent headcount seems to indicate that the district held about even with the number of students it had at the end of the 2009-10 school year, she said.

Financially, though, what it will mean for the district when the official enrollment count is turned in to the Colorado Department of Education on Oct. 1 is about a $1 million decrease in per-pupil funding from the state for the coming year, Pelland said.

That’s not a huge concern for the current budget year, because the district had already set aside roughly $500,000 in reserve funds for that very purpose, she said.

“When we did the budget last spring we were planning for as much as a 10 percent cut in state funding,” Pelland explained.

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So, when the state announced that K-12 schools would see closer to a 6 percent funding cut, it made for a cushion in Re-1’s budget.

“We decided to keep that in reserve in anticipation of enrollment declines,” Pelland said.

The drop in student numbers is also “pretty evenly distributed” across the district, she said, with elementary schools seeing the biggest decreases.

Based on the most recent student headcounts, Carbondale’s Crystal River Elementary School saw the biggest drop in enrollment, down about 40 students compared to last fall.

“There really weren’t any huge surprises for us,” said CRES Principal Karen Olson.

Most of the decrease was a result of graduating one of the school’s largest fourth-grade classes in recent years. This year’s fourth grade class has about 20 fewer students than last year, and the school had already adjusted by eliminating one fourth grade class section, Olson said.

“That worked out fine, because the teacher who would have been in that classroom transferred to Glenwood,” she said.

Sopris Elementary School in Glenwood Springs also has seen a decrease of about 30 students this year compared to last fall, while Glenwood Springs Elementary School has seen a slight increase.

If enrollment doesn’t pick up after this school year, and worse yet if student numbers continue to decline, it will only add to an increasingly bleak budget situation in future years, Pelland said.

State budget officials earlier this week announced another $256.9 million shortfall for the current fiscal year, which will most likely mean a rescission in funding for K-12 schools this fall.

Again, Pelland said the district will likely be able to absorb whatever cuts come from the state in the current budget year using reserve funds.

But a predicted $1.1 billion state budget shortfall predicted for 2011-12 will likely mean deep cuts in K-12 education, and without as much in the way of local reserve funds to rely on, she said.

jstroud@postindependent.com