The Madison Metropolitan School District has 1,006 fewer students this year than last.
Projections before the COVID-19 pandemic anticipated a drop of only 51 students from the 2019-20 school year to 2020-21, but a survey this summer indicated it was likely to be much larger. The count of 25,877 students is based on the annual “third Friday count,” which is taken on the third Friday of September to determine state aid.
Elementary and 4-year-old kindergarten enrollments account for 90% of the overall decrease, according to a memo to the School Board, which will discuss the budget and enrollment Monday evening. In 2019-20, 1,717 students enrolled in 4K, but that number is down to 1,415 this year. The elementary school total was 11,789 last year, but is down to 11,173 for 2020-21.
That fits with a national trend of declining kindergarten enrollment this year, as many districts nationwide remain virtual.
Middle school enrollment dropped from 5,486 to 5,455 and high school decreased from 7,891 to 7,834.
More than half of the drop, 56%, is accounted for by students moving to another district in Wisconsin, according to the memo. Another 15% is students who moved out of state, with open enrollment, private school, international move, drop outs and homeschooling accounting for the rest.
A July 13-26 survey on reopening schools found that about 3% of respondents planned to not enroll their children in MMSD for the school year. District administrators then used that number to plan the budget. The drop of 1,006 students equals about 3.7%.
Chief financial officer Kelly Ruppel said in an interview Friday that hiring freezes instituted over the summer were implemented with the enrollment projection in mind, and she’s glad they were put in place.
“The decisions (board members) made in July means that we don’t need to shake schools up right now,” she said.
The results of a staffing analysis that informed what, if any, positions were exempt from the hiring freeze have not been made publicly available. The Cap Times submitted a records request for the results on Sept. 28.
The School Board will have to pass two budgets later this month, one for if the Nov. 3 operating referendum fails and another for if it passes, which would add $6 million to the 2020-21 budget. The board is expected to vote on the budgets at its Oct. 26 meeting.
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