Lawrence school district enrollment drops about 1.5%

photo by: Nick Krug

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

Story updated at 4:40 p.m. Friday, Oct. 18, 2019:

The Lawrence school district saw a decrease of more than 180 students this school year compared with last year.

But the drop in enrollment may not have an immediate effect on the school district’s state funding.

The school district shared its enrollment numbers for the 2019-2020 school year with the Journal-World on Thursday, showing a decrease of 182 students across the district. The overall enrollment dropped from 11,791 students to 11,609 students, which is about a 1.5% decrease.

The drop in enrollment appears to be in contrast with the population growth in Lawrence. According to U.S. Census Bureau estimates, Lawrence has grown steadily since 2010. The bureau estimates that the city’s population had reached almost 97,000 people in 2018, which is about 10,000 more people than the population count in the 2010 census.

Superintendent Anthony Lewis said he’s not sure why the enrollment dropped this year while the city’s population appears to be growing steadily.

“The City of Lawrence appears to be growing, when you look at construction, and building permits, and we know families move within Lawrence and are not always new to the community,” Lewis said in an email to the Journal-World. “In addition, there may be growth in population but not necessarily school age families.”

A report provided to the school board in April showed the school district’s enrollment has fluctuated since 2001, Lewis said. However, the report also showed that this year is the first time enrollment has fallen since 2014-2015.

“The drop in enrollment can impact funding, so that is a concern for me,” Lewis said. “We are going to need to do some research to identify why the drop is occurring.”

The headcount was taken on Sept. 20 at each school district throughout the state.

Although a drop in enrollment could cause the school district to receive less state funding, Kathy Johnson, executive director of finance for the Lawrence district, said there are a few options to deal with it.

In the event of decreased enrollment, the state education funding law allows a school district to receive funding based on its current enrollment or its enrollment from the previous year. If a school district is found eligible, it also has the option to use a three-year enrollment average to determine the funding. Johnson said districts are free to use whichever option provides the highest level of funding.

Based on the count, Johnson said she expected the school district to use last year’s enrollment numbers for funding purposes. That would allow the school district to receive at least the same amount of state funding that’s based on overall enrollment.

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