Winona Area Public Schools (WAPS) enrollment estimates for the next school year have increased slightly, and if these estimates are accurate, the district could receive $667,400 in additional local property tax dollars and state funding above this year's budget figures. With the estimated per pupil funding at about $9,400, the predicted increase of 71 students between June 2013 and August 2014 would provide a boost to the WAPS budget.
“We have more kids in school than we did the last year,” Dan Pyan, director of fiscal affairs for WAPS, said before adding, “but we are predicting a drop in 2015, probably around 50 students.”
Pyan presented the projected enrollment numbers at the WAPS Board meeting last Thursday. In his single-page report, student enrollment gains were attributed to significant growth in the elementary schools. “Kindergarten numbers came in better than we thought they would,” he stated.
While the current estimates represent an upward trend, enrollment at WAPS had been in a steady decline. In 1999, the district had a total of 4,450 students enrolled in elementary, middle and high schools. The district predicts 3,165 students in August 2014, a decrease of 1,285 students since 1999. While this number presents a sobering downward trend, the loss of students in recent years has been less than predicted. WAPS district officials with the help of state demographers had projected in 2010 that current enrollment would have fallen an additional 325 students by now.
Where are these additional students coming from?
In addition to the increase from kindergarten enrollment, according to Pyan, many of the students coming into the district are from charter schools. The enrollment report projects a decrease in enrollment for all charter schools from the June 2013 to August 2014 period.
The School Board has closely tracked demographic and enrollment trends in previous years because student population is tied to the amount of state funding sent to the district.