Fewer kids in Janesville schools

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September 25, 2009
— The Janesville School District has 176 fewer students in kindergarten through 12th grade than last year at this time, but it won’t affect this year’s budget.

That’s because state law includes a hold-harmless clause for districts with declining enrollments. The clause holds the district’s enrollment for state-aid purposes at the level of the previous year.

The financial fallout from enrollment losses will affect budgets in years ahead, however, because state aid to school districts is based partially on enrollment.

The district released its annual September headcount this morning.

Superintendent Karen Schulte commended the school board for insisting last spring that the district budget for as few teachers as possible. The number of teachers for the school year must be set in the spring because the teachers contract requires that layoff notices must be sent by May 1.

Some school board members said repeatedly that they feared enrollment would be much lower than projected.

“The board insisted that we staff our schools very tightly in light of a potential enrollment drop … due to the closing of General Motors and (related) businesses,” Schulte wrote in a memo to the board.

The enrollment drop will affect next year’s state aid but not as much as other factors, Comptroller Lauri Clifton said. A weightier factor in the state’s aid formula will be the fact that the district will have spent less this year.

Schulte said she doesn’t know why the numbers dropped, although the local economic situation is the most likely reason.

Schulte said school records will show how many students moved out of the district since last spring and how many moved in, but she has not yet collected those numbers. Those numbers won’t tell why students moved, but they should reflect the loss of the GM plant and other layoffs.

Schulte said the losses are spread among the grades and schools, so the district is not overstaffed.

“I am confident that our careful staffing has given us the number of teachers necessary to operate our schools without hiring more teachers,” Schulte wrote.

Schulte could not say whether the enrollment drop is the bottom or just the beginning of a trend. She noted that a second hospital being built in the city should bring new residents.

The district projected enrollment in kindergarten through 12th grade would drop by four from the previous fall count—from 9,948 to 9,944. Instead, the drop was 176, meaning the district has 172 fewer students than projected.

The district also has 581 students in 4-year-old kindergarten and 67 students in other preschool programs this fall. That brings the headcount total to 10,420, which is 121 fewer than last year’s fall total.

The preschool students are counted as partial students for state-aid purposes because they do not attend full time.

Overall, the high schools lost the most students over the past year, 117. The elementary schools lost 65. Middle school enrollment dropped by six.

Some of the high school losses were students moving to the charter schools.

Schools gaining students included Edison Middle, 31, and Adams Elementary, 24.


Despite the districtwide drop in student numbers, enrollments are near the maximum allowed by school board policy in a few schools, Superintendent Karen Schulte said.

The most worrisome enrollment is at Adams Elementary School, where two fourth-grade sections are at 30 students, the maximum that board policy allows.

If a class goes over the maximum, Schulte said she might go to the school board for authorization to hire another teacher, using unallocated money in the operations budget.

The board also could waive its policy and allow larger classes, and the district could shift resources to help those classes without hiring a new teacher, Schulte said.

Schulte said the district already is using federal stimulus dollars to pay for part-time teacher hours to help with special-education students in those Adams classrooms.

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