RSD experiences unexpected drop in enrollment

Going+into+the+2020-2021+school+year%2C+RSD+experienced+a+3.9%25+decrease+in+enrollment.+Staff+speculate+that+the+decrease+has+much+to+do+with+students+enrolling+in+private+schools+in+order+to+attend+in-person+from+the+beginning+of+the+school+year.

Sophia Scheller

Going into the 2020-2021 school year, RSD experienced a 3.9% decrease in enrollment. Staff speculate that the decrease has much to do with students enrolling in private schools in order to attend in-person from the beginning of the school year.

Samantha Haney, Co Web Editor

Rockwood School District (RSD) has experienced a reduction in enrollment between the 2019-2020 school year and the 2020-2021 school year. While enrollment is always expected to have the possibility of a decline, many district staff members who studied the numbers found the decline in enrollment to be higher than predicted. 

There were various factors that contributed to this decline. For Lafayette in particular, the two largest amounts of students switching schools were students that either moved out of the RSD area or switched to a private school.

Registrar Aneta Kolb keeps a record of which students switched to different schooling options outside than Lafayette and she found roughly 80 students switched to another school.

“Around 16 went to a private school, eight to another Rockwood [high school], 28 moved out of the Rockwood area, and around five are homeschooling,” Kolb said. The others did not list a reason for changing. 

Having students move is something that the district and individual schools expect, however, having a large number of students switching to private schools was more unexpected. After seeing the impact of COVID-19 on many other aspects of the district’s functions, Director of Finance Dan Steinbruegge sees a direct connection in the data.

“According to our September 2020 official enrollment count, overall the District realized a decrease in attendance of 787 students compared to September 2019, or 3.9%. For the last couple school years the District has actually increased student enrollment due to the new residential developments within the District boundaries and movement of homes in which families are moving into the District,” Steinbruegge said. “For 2020-2021 and prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the District was projecting enrollment to increase to 20,984. The decrease in enrollment is directly related to the COVID-19 pandemic.”

COVID-19 has also made the enrollment process more difficult for both counselors and families that are new to the district. Counselor Jamie Waeckerle is part of the enrollment process and has been finding issues connecting with these new families joining the Lafayette community. 

“For almost every enrollment I’ve done [this year], I’ve done through Zoom, which is very unusual. To be perfectly honest it’s hard to truly get a feel for that new student and their family which is what we’re trying to accomplish. It’s to build that relationship with the new family, and it’s just harder to do over Zoom. We can do it, it’s just a bit of a challenge,” Waeckerle said.

This virtual take on learning is part of what some are theorizing caused the drop in enrollment. While RSD is back to in-person learning, starting the school year virtual may have caused some students to switch to private schools. 

It has been acknowledged that it is possible enrollment numbers could increase for second semester now that RSD is offering an in-person learning option. Waeckerle has already begun to meet with families preparing to make the switch.