Flagstaff Unified School District continues to lose students at a record pace, with the latest official enrollment figures showing a loss of more than 500 students for the second year in a row.
This year's drop of 622 students as of the 100th day of enrollment could cost FUSD an estimated $3 million next year in per-pupil subsidies from the state.
Last year's loss of 541 students was nearly as expensive.
Enrollment now sits below 10,000 students for the time in more than a decade.
As is typically the case, some schools stayed flat, others lost minimally, while others shed dramatically. And one, Marshall Elementary, grew by close to 10 percent.
The 100-day count provides a critical look at how school districts will be funded the following year. From this headcount, the state figures an "average daily membership," and that is the driver of the district's general funds.
FUSD expected a significant loss this year, and even planned a slightly more severe drop. District officials predicted the enrollment slide would peak, although not stop, this year.
On the plus side, however, FUSD did see an unusual midyear turnaround this year. On Dec. 14, the 80th day of the school year, enrollment sat at 9,454. By the 100-day count on Jan. 27, it had rebounded by 28 students.
Usually, enrollment continues to shrink throughout the year. Last year, the day 80-to-day 100 difference was a loss of 79 students.
MIDDLE SCHOOLS CONTRACTING
-- Middle schools showed the steepest drop, with a loss of 366 students between grades 6 and 8.
This represents a nearly 18 percent decline in that age group. This is an acceleration of last year's pattern, when the middle school grades were also the most notable drop.
With the greatest purge currently in the middle grades, logic means that as this cohort moves along, high school numbers will shrink in coming years.
-- The high schools lost a total of 161 students, or 5 percent. The loss was more pronounced at Flagstaff High, although it remains the city's largest high school.
-- Elementary grades were down 95 students, or about 2 percent. This includes preschool students and some special education students who aren't classified into traditional grades.
Although some elementary schools lost significantly while others didn't lose at all, this was the most stable age range overall: Cromer, the district's largest elementary school, stayed exactly the same at 680 students. Killip and Knoles stayed nearly constant.
Marshall was the only school, at any age range, with significant enrollment gain. The westside school, which contains an arts and science magnet, grew by 50 students. The school saw dramatic growth in fifth grade in particular -- 26 more students just in that grade -- but the growth in lower grades also required another section of kindergarten.
ALSO AFFECTS OVERRIDE
District finance director Ken Garland has predicted the enrollment losses and continually updated his outlook on how that will translate into financial losses as well.
He said the $3 million funding hit is a projection, as the state Department of Education needs to check and finalize the enrollment numbers. In the meantime, the district finance office is running a simulation, and it is expected to update its budget projections in the coming weeks.
In addition to a direct reduction in per-pupil funding, the lowered enrollment will also affect how much money the district can collect from the taxpayer-funded budget override. This indirect impact could be between about $550,000 and $800,000 extra.
FUSD has been in an enrollment funk for several years. In 2002, the district enrolled 11,570 students. Every year since then except for one, the district has lost enrollment.
Last year's 541-student loss was a record drop at the time.
Long-term projections show continued enrollment losses until about 2014, then a flattening, followed by gradual and modest increases.
Hillary Davis can be reached at email@example.com or 556-2261.
Year/Elementary (P-5)/Middle (6-8)/High (9-12)/Total
*In 2010, elementary schools spanned grades P-6 and middle schools grades 7-8, but figures have been adjusted to reflect current age groups.