| AspenTimes.com

Roaring Fork School District loses students, worries about loss in funding

During the 2020-2021 school year Roaring Fork School District saw 311 students withdraw across the district by October — many for pandemic-related reasons, Chief Academic Officer Rick Holt said.

For instance, there were families who opted to have their students wait another year before starting kindergarten, or start homeschooling rather than wait for RFSD schools to return to in-person learning, Holt said.

“I would never want to deny a family the opportunity to provide you know, an educational opportunity they feel is best for their students. I feel like that’s really our role as a public entity,” Holt said. “At the same time, I hold the belief that we would love to have all those students with us, and certainly we’ve missed having some of those students with us and we want our families to know that we’re ready to take them on again and include them in our community.”

Now however, as the spring semester speeds by, the number of withdrawn students is slightly higher.

“We’ve estimated that number to be around 330 students…we’re about that many kids down…It didn’t have any direct impact financially or staffing wise on schools this year because of the funding model for schools. We’re funded on what happened last year,” Holt said.

The district is making a concerted effort to reach out to withdrawn students and their families to get a sense of their rationale and see if they have plans to return to school within the coming year. Holt said school principals called the families directly in order to really hear and understand what their concerns were, rather than sending out a mass email update they went with a more personalized approach.

“We wanted to reach out to families and say hey we’re still here for you, and what are you interested in? Are you interested in coming back to work with us because we’re interested in having you back, we’d love for you to be here with us…The last time I looked at it, it was a little under 13% of those kids that were returning for sure,” Holt said.

The big concern right now for RFSD is what funding from the state will look like for the 2020-2021 academic year. Holt said there’s been a pause in legislation, but the worst-case scenario would be if the state took away funding for every withdrawn student, not accounting for those who came back or plan to in the fall.

Kelsy Been, Public Information Officer for RFSD, broke down the numbers in a follow-up email.

“A $6.5 million shortfall (in the budget) carries over, and if we don’t recover those 350 students and our enrollment numbers stay flat, we would receive about $500,000 less in total program funding,” Been wrote.

Holt said the district is trying to plan next year’s budget cautiously, aiming for a middle-of-the-road approach between how many students withdrew and how many returned.

“The problem is if they refund us by 300 less students and those kids all come back, we’ll be operating at such a hole, you know that it would be challenging to actually staff up the buildings to support that many students…(we) would still be able to offer full programming to all the families with us (and the deficit) wouldn’t prevent us from providing high quality education,” Holt said.

Until the state comes to a decision the district will wait in anticipation about what the coming school year will look like for faculty, students and families dependent on the funding they’re provided.

Withdrawn student numbers for RFSD

– Transferred to public CO district- 51.7%

– HomeSchool- 10.7%

– Moved out of state- 13.8%

– Moved out of country- 4.5%

– Transferred to Non-public- 19.3%

Enrollment numbers over the years:

2017-2018: 5,637

2018-2019: 5,687

2019-2020: 5,647

2020-2021: 5,292

 

jpeterson@postindependent.com