Enrollment numbers decline in USD 497, statewide



Student enrollment declined this year in USD 497.

By Maxwell Cowardin, Staff Writer

Amid the pandemic, enrollment in USD 497 has decreased significantly. 

This decline has led to a net funding decrease of $1 million as USD 497 lost a total of 589 K-12 students from the 2019 headcount.

Since the majority of the district’s budget is in personnel, we are carefully reviewing all vacancies prior to hiring,” said Julie Boyle, executive director of communication. “Our Budget and Program Evaluation and Boundary Advisory Committees will review the budget and enrollment reports, look for efficiencies, and make recommendations. We will either have to reallocate funds or make cuts to manage this year’s shortfall.”

The loss was somewhat offset by an increase at the Lawrence Virtual School of 264 students. The district will also use a declining provision for state funding that allows it to soften the budget decline this year, using averages of three years of enrollment numbers. 

These drops in enrollment are a statewide phenomenon. The Kansas Association of School Boards reports that enrollment in public schools this year dropped by 15,667 students for a decline of about 3 percent. Enrollment in accredited private schools declined at about the same rate.

“These numbers indicate that most of the unexpected decline in enrollment was among the youngest students,” according to a blog post by Mark Tallman, executive director of advocacy at KASB. “Kindergarten and preschool students are not required to attend school, and parents may have the most health concerns about the youngest children. For many of these students, it may not be so much ‘dropping out’ of school as simply not starting as planned. That may indicate that most of these students will return next year if the COVID pandemic is considered under control.”

High school in enrollment stayed steady with LHS gaining 26 students for a total of 1,582 students while Free State declined by 34 student to 1,844.