Virtual education is the key component to growth in the Lawrence school district.
For the third consecutive year, the Lawrence Virtual School, 2145 La., has helped keep enrollment numbers in the black.
If not for LVS, the district would have lost 76 students this year, according to a preliminary headcount released Monday. Instead, enrollment is up by 115 students.
The district receives the same base state aid for Lawrence Virtual School students and students enrolled in regular brick-and-mortar schools. The district takes its official headcount for state funding Sept. 20.
Julie Boyle, Lawrence school district spokeswoman, said the numbers are what the district expected.
"Just looking at our past, our recent history has been pretty steady : and we haven't seen any changes in our community to make us expect something different," Boyle said.
Before LVS opened in 2004, the district had seen declining enrollment for four consecutive years. Students enrolled in the Virtual School receive a laptop computer and printer, along with books and school materials. They complete their work off-site and interact with teachers by phone or electronically. It is popular with parents who home-school.
This year, enrollment declines were reported at eight of the district's 15 elementary schools, three of the district's four junior high schools and both high schools.
Free State High School alone saw a loss of 80 students.
"It does sound like a lot," Boyle said. "I can't explain it. I don't know the reason behind it."
Where the declines occur also has Boyle scratching her head. She said the district has seen stable enrollment in its junior high schools and high schools for the past several years and declines at the elementary level.
In estimates released in June, the Census Bureau claims Lawrence from July 2004 to July 2005 lost 26 residents - less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the city's overall population. But the numbers are significant because it is believed to be the first time in at least 30 years the city has recorded an annual decline in population.
The report also marks the fifth year in a row that the Census Bureau has shown the city growing at a rate well below its historical average of 2 percent.
This year's school enrollment numbers, including LVS students, show the opposite. Elementary numbers show an increase of 225 students. Junior high school numbers show a loss of 17 students and a loss of 93 students at the high schools.
"If you can draw anything from this count, it's that Lawrence is a very mobile community," Boyle said. "People moving in, people moving within Lawrence and people moving out."
The school district's general fund is based on how many students are enrolled on Sept. 20. The official headcount, which dictates how much state funding the district receives, is taken then.