JEFFERSON — As in many other districts across the state and the country, the School District of Jefferson saw its enrollment numbers go way down this year.
Continuing declining population trends combined with the ongoing pandemic, the lack of virtual school options, prominent public debates about COVID-19 mitigation protocols in schools and other factors presumably all played a part in the change.
Overall, the Jefferson schools recorded a drop of 84.3 full-time equivalent students when the official state enrollment count occurred on the third Friday in September.
In 2020, the district recorded a “membership” of 1,730.5 students. (Elementary, middle and high-schoolers count for one full-time student each, with early childhood students counting for 0.5 full-time-equivalent and 4-year-old kindergartners counting as 0.6 FTE.
This year, the membership count dropped to 1,646.2.
Breaking that number down, Small World’s 4K program dropped by three enrollees. East Elementary School and West Elementary School recorded student population drops of 12 and 13 students respectively. Sullivan Elementary, the school with the smallest overall population, went down by 19 students.
In contrast, the high school did not see its student population change, and the middle school lost only one student.
One area where the district did go up, however, was in open enrollment — that is, students heading from their home district to another district of their choice.
In 2020, Jefferson saw 220 students coming in from other districts while seeing 180 local residents exit for chosen schools in other districts. That represented a net gain of 40 students for the Jefferson schools.
In 2021, Jefferson’s net gain grew even larger. Some 210 students came into the district from other areas, while 142 left the Jefferson schools for other destinations, resulting in a net gain of 68 students.
That continues a positive open enrollment trend that has been going for the last several years. As each open enrolled student carries with them the tax dollars that would have been allotted to them in their home district, this trend has had a significant positive effect on Jefferson school budgets and school programs alike.