Enrollment in the Janesville School District has dropped by 434 students, or 4.4%, this year as the community prepares to vote on referendum questions next month.

The decline continues recent enrollment patterns in the district.

The district Monday released its third Friday in September enrollment count, which is performed annually. Total enrollment in early-childhood programs through 12th grade is 9,455, down from 9,889 students last year.

“The School District of Janesville, like all districts in the state and nation, has been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Superintendent Steve Pophal said in the news release. “We will continue to monitor enrollment trends as we work our way through this public health emergency.”

It's the largest single-year decrease in at least 19 years, according to data compiled by The Gazette. It follows a down year in 2019-20, when enrollment dipped by 172 students. The 2019-20 numbers were the lowest in at least 15 years.


The decline is of greater focus this year as the district prepares for the Nov. 3 election. Voters within district boundaries will see two referendum questions—one for aging facilities and the other an operational question.

The operational referendum was proposed to help counter a decline in state aid, which is determined by enrollment. With fewer students enrolled, the district will receive less money, which could lead to cuts in staffing or programs. The operational referendum would help offset this challenge, Pophal has told The Gazette.

Under the September count, kindergarten enrollment dropped for the first time in five years, a decrease of 39 students. The district’s 4-K program saw a bigger drop-off of 109 students.

“It is possible that there are fewer students currently enrolled in these grades as parents may have opted to home-school during the COVID-19 public pandemic health emergency,” the district release reads.

Janesville charter schools saw an increase of 1,766 students this year, bringing the total to 2,203. The 404% increase in charter school enrollment is largely due to students moving to ARISE, the district’s virtual school, this year because of concerns about COVID-19.

More students open enrolled into the Janesville district than left for other districts. The district gained a net of 102 students in open enrollment this year, the lowest number since 101 students were gained in 2015-16.

The numbers will be counted again on the second Friday in January, when they will be used to calculate the district’s revenue limits and the amount of state aid it will receive.

The state’s funding formula is complex, but the basic math shows that each student brings in an estimated $7,000 in state aid.

The Janesville School Board is set to learn more about the numbers at Tuesday’s meeting.