October 23, 2014

WB-RC schools down 110 students on count day

Budgeted for a loss of 60

10/7/13

WEST BRANCH — West Branch-Rose City Schools saw a decrease of 110 students from last year on the fall student count day Oct. 2, according to Superintendent Dan Cwayna.

Cwayna said the district had budgeted for a loss of 60 students.

“So this represents 50 additional students that we were not anticipating,” Cwayna told the Herald Oct. 7.

The district receives $7,034 in state funding per student, Cwayna said. There are two count days during the school year. The first, in the fall, accounts for 90 percent of funding, while the second count in the spring accounts for 10 percent.

Losing an additional 50 students over what was budgeted could cost the district $351,700, almost 2 percent of the district’s budget.

Cwayna said he couldn’t speculate on why there was such a large drop in students.

“I don’t really know,” he said. “It is hard to say.”

“I wish there was an easy answer to enrollment,” Cwayna said. “A lot of it has to do with the declining birth rate. A lot has to do with the declining economy. We’re not the only district in this dilemma. A lot of districts are reporting larger than anticipated decreases. It’s statewide, except for a few pockets that are able to maintain (enrollment numbers).”

Cwayna said there were 183 seniors enrolled in the district during count day last October. This year, there were 132 incoming kindergarteners and Young Fives, a swing of 51 students.

The WB-RC district has weathered its share of controversy this year. In February, the school board voted to close Rose City Middle School for the upcoming school year, causing many parents to threaten to remove their children from the district.

Then, at the sentencing of former WB-RC teacher Neal Erickson for criminal sexual conduct against a student, the judge revealed that six teachers in the district wrote the court letters requesting leniency for Erickson’s sentence.

Several parents told the board that if it did not fire the offending teachers, they would remove their children from the district. The board voted 4-2 not to fire the teachers at its Aug. 19 meeting.

There were also reports that some parents planned to keep their children home on count day in order to punish the district financially. However, Cwayna said he did not get any reports of that occurring.

He said it is too early to say right now what sort of budget cuts the district might make to recoup the loss. A finance meeting is scheduled for Oct. 14, and Cwayna said the issue would be on the agenda. It will also be on the regular board meeting agenda for Oct. 21.

“We need to get direction on what the board wants to do in terms of mid-year cuts,” Cwayna said. “We need to get our audit in. There are some factors we need to look at.”

He said the audit will be completed this month, and if it is ready, will be reported at the October board meeting.

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