Slight Changes In Glenwood, F-M Enrollments

Second graders at Northeast Elementary School in Glenwood work on drawings in art class.

Glenwood’s student enrollment is up for the 2021-2022 school year.

After losing six students last year, Glenwood’s enrollment, which had to be certified with the state in October, is 1,933.4 students, or up about six students from last year.

What that means for Glenwood may not be a financial windfall but it does mean the district will no longer be operating on the state-mandated budget guarantee.

In its current fiscal year, due to its previous dip in enrollment, the district was allowed a one-year cushion - freezing its state aid at 101 percent of the funding it received in 2019-2020. Districts that experience enrollment drops are allowed the exception to allow for an adjustment to their expenditures before lesser funding kicks in.

The state’s current $3.381 billion general-fund appropriation for elementary and secondary schools in its 327 school districts provides $7,048 per pupil in state supplemental aid to cover yearly instruction costs. That funding is collected through property tax, as well as state and federal aid.

The addition of six student represent a $40,000 budget increase for Glenwood. Superintendent Devin Embray said the amount may seem small but in these belt-tightening times at school districts, every cent counts.

“It’s a good thing that will help us out and depending on SSA (State Supplemental Aid) it will determine how we move forward,” he said. “The last decade or so we’ve been very fortunate to maneuver our downs in enrollment with SSA to be able to be able to continue provide the same staffing and programming without making cuts. We will do everything in our power to try and make that happen.”

Embray went on to say the district would dip into its unspent reserve for operating expenses to prevent staff or program reductions “until we feel we can no longer do that.”

At Fremont-Mills, a two-year trend in dipping enrollment continued. Fremont-Mills is down seven students this year. The district was down 21 students the previous year.

The drop in enrollment at Fremont-Mills means the district will remain on the budget guarantee for a second straight year

“We will operate our finances under the budget guarantee so we will have to look at ways to save money,” said Fremont-Mills Superintendent Dave Gute.

The loss of seven students this school year translates to approximately $50,000 in lost state funding for the district this year, bringing the two year total to just under $200,000 in lost revenue.

“There’s a lot of factors involved there as we don’t know what supplemental state aid will be next year but we are definitely looking at different things, how we can save money over the next two years,” he said. “Hopefully, our enrollment bounces back but October 1 (2022) is a long way away. Its way too early to start speculating what next year will look like.”

Gute added he and the board have discussed bringing on an “expert” to look at the districts finances.

“We’re in fine shape but we want to be prepared if that enrollment trend continues,” Gute said.

Up and down enrollment figures are nothing new for area school districts.
In Glenwood, the county’s largest district, the yo-yo trend in enrollment dates back over a decade. Glenwood was down a total of 82 students in the 2019-2020 school year and seven last year.
Embray isn’t sure there’s a cure for shifting enrollments but those gains and losses correct themselves, he said. It’s when Glenwood loses nearly 100 students and they don’t return, as the district faced in flooding during 2011 and in 2019, that’s when the problem arises.

“Those were major losses for our kids,” he said. “But it’s been very minimal and the trend of our district is we’ve survived the bumpy roads of the life events that have taken place and we’ve been able to weather that storm. Now its just looking at how to slowly but surely grow from there.”

Embray points to county economic development, the housing boom in Glenwood and the surrounding areas and improved advertising/marketing of the district to families as possible cures for the enrollment ups and downs.

“We’re always trying to show our district is strong, healthy and has quality programming to offer kids,” he said.

The Opinion-Tribune

116 S Walnut St Glenwood, IA 51534-1665
P.O. Box 377, Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-527-3191
Phone: 712-623-2566
Fax: 712-527-3193

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