Yelm Community Schools Enrollment Down Nearly 300 in Initial Counts

Officials Say COVID-19 Pandemic is Largely to Blame

By Daniel Warn / dan@yelmonline.com
Posted 9/28/21

After initial enrollment counts, Yelm Community Schools is down about 298 full-time equivalent students from its projected count of 5,454 for the 2021-22 school year.

Most of the decrease can be …

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Yelm Community Schools Enrollment Down Nearly 300 in Initial Counts

Officials Say COVID-19 Pandemic is Largely to Blame

Posted

After initial enrollment counts, Yelm Community Schools is down about 298 full-time equivalent students from its projected count of 5,454 for the 2021-22 school year.

Most of the decrease can be seen in deficits at the elementary level in kindergarten and first grades, said Superintendent Brian Wharton at the Sept. 23 school board meeting. He added Mill Pond and Fort Stevens elementary schools were down by about 70 students.

“This is our first official count,” Wharton said. “It’s what we call the fourth-day count, so it’s the first Monday of the school year.”

Toni Brittain, chief of finance and operations for Yelm Community Schools, said if the enrollment number does not increase, the district will lose money starting in January. She said that’s a good reason to monitor the district’s fund balance, which is just about $8 million.

A fund balance is the accumulation of an organization’s revenues minus its expenditures.

“Right now, if we were to use September’s enrollment numbers — which we’re hoping they’ll go up — we would be taking about a $2.5 million hit,” Brittain said. “But, we are watching that very closely, and we are fortunate because our district is strong financially. But, a $2.5 million hit is significant for our district.”

She said other area districts are experiencing similar situations. Districts are monitoring their own fund balances to see what they may have to cut to make ends meet.

Yet Wharton said the prospects are not as grim as they seem.



“The big piece of data that is missing from (the September count), is our Running Start students just started this week, and they don’t get included in that count until the Oct. 1 count,” Wharton said. “Immediately, that number —  that 298 —  will come down to about 225, which helps in some way.”

Wharton said the phenomenon is being experienced in regions all over the state, but he remains hopeful.

“We are experiencing probably the latest enrollment by families that I have ever seen,” he said. “So as we continue to enroll more families, we expect (enrollment) to grow on the Oct. 1 count and be more stable after that.”

The dip in enrollment is due primarily to the COVID-19 pandemic, Wharton said.

“We do think, based on the feedback that we’ve received through the transfer process, that by far the number one influence on (enrollment) is higher rates of COVID within the community,” he said. “Parents made very strong, last-minute decisions to say, ‘I’m going to stay and homeschool them,’ or ... ‘I’m going to go into an online environment.’”

Ultimately though, Wharton said the district is trying to make itself as available and helpful as it can to try to attract more families.

“We are in the process right now of reaching out to all of our homeschool families and all of our late enrollees into online programs and just connecting (and) seeing if there are services we can provide them,” Wharton said.

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  • AndrewThomas

    The absolite narcissism of this guy. Families didn't return because of the misserable job the district did at handling COVID protocols. Yelm's population continues to grow and they still had fewer students enroll. The superintendent and school board failed the children of Yelm and are now realizing their $2.5 million mistake. All summer parents came out to voice their concerns at board meetings with record attendance. The district largely ignored them. If more parents could afford to take their kids out, they would!

    Wednesday, September 29, 2021 Report this