Enrollment decreases in area schools

Published 8:00 am Monday, December 7, 2015

Local school divisions have faced reductions in enrollment over the past year, which have significantly impacted the amount of state funding schools receive.

According to Charles Pyle, the state Department of Education’s director of communications, statewide there has been a slow increase in enrollment over the past few years.

While some divisions across the state have seen increased student populations, local schools have seen fewer students this year as compared to last year.

During the 2014-15 school year, enrollment across the state was approximately 1,279,773. Enrollment has increased throughout the state to 1,283,494 for the current year, Pyle said.

“The Virginia Department of Education provides school divisions with funding based on average daily membership (ADM) of students, which means on the number of students enrolled in the school division,” said Dr. Nancy Leonard, Charlotte’s division superintendent. “A conservative estimate for financial calculations is roughly $10,000 per student. Our ending enrollment was 1,858 at the end of last school year and our fall enrollment for this year was 1,832.”

Leonard said that with the reduction in student enrollment, “we are looking at a loss of anticipated revenue. Obviously, this poses a financial hardship on the school division,” she said.

James Abernathy Jr., the executive assistant to Lunenburg’s division superintendent, said while enrollment was down in Lunenburg County this year, the reduction rates are less than that of other schools.

Lunenburg County saw a reduction of enrollment of only 10 students from last school year to the current school year, according to Abernathy.

He said there were a total of 1,522 students for the 2014-15 school year and 1,512 for the current year. In light of this, the budget was based on enrollment numbers for the 2014-15 school year, he said.

Enrollment drives state funding, said Abernathy. The local school division’s composite index funding formula is based on a county’s ability to pay. Abernathy said Lunenburg currently has a composite index of .25, which means that the state provides 75 percent of Standards of Quality (SOQ) funding and the county provides 25 percent.

“Our fall enrollment as of Sept. 30, was 1,301 compared to 1,322 as of Sept. 30, 2014,” said Dr. Amy Griffin, Cumberland’s division superintendent. “We budgeted on an enrollment of 1,314 for the 2015-16 school year. This is approximately a reduction of $90,000 in state funds,” she said.

Cumberland is one of many local schools that has noticed a trend of reduced enrollment, creating a significant impact on state and local funding.

Buckingham County Schools could be looking at a loss of almost $300,000 from the projected $12,972,219 in state funding, according to Division Superintendent Dr. Cecil Snead.

Enrollment for this year was below the budgeted number of 1,963 and Snead said if that trend continues, the division could see a loss in funds.

In fiscal year 2014-15, enrollment at Buckingham totaled 1,968 students and received roughly $13,000,000 in state funding. Currently, Buckingham County Schools has a total enrollment of 1,911 students.

Prince Edward County Public Schools have noticed a decrease in enrollment by approximately 21 students from last year to the current year, according to Division Superintendent Dr. David Smith. Last year, Prince Edward County had a total of 2,040 students enrolled. This year, the enrollment rate is 2,019.

Smith said based on the enrollment reductions, the school system faced an estimated cut of $110,000 in state revenue. In order to balance out the cut in state revenue, Smith said reductions in expenditures were necessary, with the balance coming from other areas in the budget.