Enrollment Up In Glenwood, Fremont-Mills, East Mills School Districts

Enrollment is up this year in the Glenwood Community School District.

Student enrollments are up double-digits in the Glenwood, Fremont-Mills and East Mills Community School Districts.

Certified enrollment numbers on Oct. 1 for school districts across the state were recently released.

Fremont-Mills is up 15 students in its certified enrollment numbers this year. The increase this year ends a four-year downward trend in enrollment resulting in a loss of 48 students. The district has 438 students enrolled in K through 12.

“That’s good news for us,” said Fremont-Mills superintendent Dave Gute said. “We’ve been down four straight years so that’s good.”

Gute went on to say the district is “a little bit down on open enrollments out and a little bit up in open enrollments in.”

“The kindergarteners coming in was a little bit bigger than our graduating class so that’s part of it along with that fluctuation of a few more enrolling in and a few going out,” he said. “The open enrollments are a contributing factor.”

New rules implemented last year has spiked open enrollment numbers across the state. The new law allows parents to open enroll students at any time during the school year. The previous rule restructured open enrollments to a March 1 deadline of the previous school year.

The state’s current $3.7 billion general-fund budget for elementary and secondary schools in its 327 school districts provides $7,635 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.
With a 15-student increase, that means more than $100,000 in additional funds for Fremont-Mills.

“After being down close to 50 (students) over that four-year period we haven’t had to make any cuts or anything, we lost teachers to attrition, but hadn’t had to make any staff cuts,” Gute said. “The money comes the next year so we haven’t seen it yet this year but hopefully we can hold steady on staffing. We’ll make those decisions when budget time comes around in the spring.”

Glenwood’s certified enrollment of 1,936.52 students shows an increase of 17.65 students. But Embray cautioned against taking that number at face value. He said “actual bodies in the district will vary” already from that Oct. 1 certified enrollment number.

“It’s officially up 18, that’s what we certified but then that’s where everyone kind of differs,” he said. “For instance, last week we found out we had a family move out of district to Bellevue so that takes two off our certified count there. We then notify the state when those things change.”

In actuality, the superintendent added, the district is up “12 to 14 students.” Still, that figure represents a near reversal of GCSD’s loss of 15 students the previous year.

Overall, Embray sees the uptick in enrolment as a huge positive for the district. He understands the impending closing of the Glenwood Resource Center can impact the district going forward, he feels families want to be in this district and they’re doing everything they can to stay in the district.

“Obviously having an enrollment increase is a good thing,” he said. “Our budget is set by numbers of students that we have and when you have incoming kindergarten classes and out-going senior classes, its typically how you roll your numbers. And we had a lot of move-ins over the summer into the fall so that’s a positive. I think our school district is on the upswing.”

The 12 to 14 student increase represents nearly $100,000 in additional state funding for Glenwood.

“When you’re talking about being able to have the dollars to provide for staffing to be able negotiate with the groups and provide salary increases, it’s big,” Embray said. “This doesn’t happen when you have a lot of decreases in enrollments.”

The East Mills Community School District’s enrollment is up 13.6 students this year, bringing total enrollment to 542.1, according to Darla Kirkpatrick, a school business official. 

New open enrollment rules aren’t the only new laws impacting school districts, their enrollments and their staffing models. Last January, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed a new law that allows families to use taxpayer money to pay for private school tuition. The program is expected to cost more than $300 million annually with families establishing Education Savings Accounts (ESA) to cover private school costs. Since June, 17,000 families have submitted ESA applications.

While Gute hasn’t seen an impact of the ESA option in Fremont-Mills’ enrollments he knows it’s coming.

“I don’t know if we’ve seen it here yet with people taking their money to a private school, but I do think long term, as more people are eligible to receive those monies, I do think it will affect everyone in southwest Iowa,” he said, pointing to private school options in Council Bluffs.
In all, Glenwood had 127 students enroll out of the district this year with a total of 168 enrolling in. A total of 12 students have also opted for the ESA option and attend private schools.

The ESA legislation does allocate $1,205 to public schools for each student within the district that uses the state funds to attend private school. Districts are also given more flexibility on where to apply those funds in their budgets.

Embray did say with the enrollments in and out, Glenwood is on the “positive side” of that equation with more students wanting to join the district than exit. That’s a trend that the district has maintained, he added, for most of the last decade.

Embray also said the change to the open enrollment laws has been a challenge, especially on the paperwork side and in losing students, but it hasn’t had the “major impact” he anticipated the change would have when it passed.

“We haven’t seen the mass movement we thought we might when it was being discussed,” he said.

The Opinion-Tribune

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