Families move, students gets older and graduate, parents may decide to send their child to school in another district; they’re all reasons school enrollments generally don’t stay static from year to year.
Arrowhead High School
Arrowhead High School, for example, has seen student numbers steadily drop since 2005-06, with many of its feeder schools experiencing the same trend. Pewaukee, on the other hand, is seeing an increase in its pupil population.
The state doesn’t conduct official student enrollments until the third Friday in September (Sept. 16, this year), but we checked in early with area administrators to see what their student counts are looking like for this school year.
Enrollment at Arrowhead this year is 2,193, according to Superintendent Laura Myrah. That’s about 8 percent lower than the school’s peak of 2,379 in 2005-06, and projections show the trend will continue, with the student count expected to drop to 2,090 by 2021.
Fewer students means less money from the state. Wisconsin’s school finance formula involves a per-pupil allocation based on a three-year rolling average, Myrah said. Arrowhead’s per-pupil allocation is about $12,000 per student.
For example, if over three years Arrowhead's enrollment drops by 20 students, that means about $240,000 less in the school's operating budget. But Myrah noted that those 20 students fall across four grade levels and dozens of different course offerings, so the shortfall is not always easy to address.
"Just losing a student or two from any particular course doesn't allow us to cut that course or reduce the number of teachers in the school,” Myrah said. “Finding $240,000 worth of reductions within the budget is challenging, particularly when costs of goods and services typically rise each year.”
Hartland-Lakeside School District
One of Arrowhead's seven feeder districts, Hartland-Lakeside, has seen a slight bump in student numbers after several years of gradual declines.
The district hasn't taken an official count yet, Hartland-Lakeside Superintendent Glenn Schilling said, but overall enrollment is up about 20 students from a year ago, when enrollment was 1,138.
Schilling said much of that is due to an increase in enrollment in 4-year-old kindergarten, from 90 to 102.
"We know there’s a lot of younger families that have moved in with smaller kids," Schilling said. "Some of the people that have enrolled in 4K have 2-year-olds, 3-year-olds and things like that. So we’re seeing a little bit of a shift. Not huge, but we’re starting to see that pendulum swing a little bit that way."
Pewaukee School District
In the Pewaukee School District, the trend of growing enrollment continues.
Superintendent JoAnn Sternke said the surge continues to be the strongest in the lower grades because of families with young children moving into the district.
Sternke said numbers aren’t finalized yet, but projections show enrollment at Pewaukee Lake Elementary School, which houses early childhood through third grade, is up from 967 in 2015-16 to 1,023 this school year. Horizon Elementary School (Grades 4-6) is up from 621 to 649.
The district hired staff and added class sections at the early grade levels to accommodate the growth, Sternke said.
Overall, the district’s student count is up from 2,870 to 2,977, an increase of 3.7 percent.
Other Arrowhead feeder districts
Aside from Hartland-Lakeside, two of the other Arrowhead feeder districts are showing slight increases in enrollment, with the other four experiencing drops.
Stone Bank School’s numbers are up slightly, from 362 to 375, said Stone Bank Superintendent Lynn Davies. Swallow School also is seeing a small increase, from 528 to 535, according to Swallow Superintendent Melissa Thompson.
Lake Country, Merton, North Lake and Richmond all have fewer students this school year.