Head count: Enrollment down at Kokomo schools, up at Taylor

·5 min read

Oct. 23—Enrollment numbers are in, and while some schools saw a decrease, most are hovering around the same numbers as last year.

Kokomo School Corporation is one of the school districts that has fewer students this year.

Exact figures were not provided, but Dave Barnes, director of communications, said in a statement that Kokomo schools had a decline in kindergarten enrollment, similar to the one the district saw six years ago.

Kindergarten enrollment rebounded in the years following.

"Kokomo Schools does not anticipate this decline in enrollment to become a long-term trend," Barnes said.

The importance of count day

A school's enrollment is figured twice a year: in September and again in February. These are called "count days."

But it's not as simple as taking attendance on count day. Students still count if they are out sick. The only ones who do not count are students who are enrolled but haven't attended school at all.

Count days calculate average daily membership, also referred to as ADM. The ADM determines how much funding a school corporation will receive from the state. Schools receive a certain dollar amount per student.

The September count day determines funding for July through December. Until the fall count day, schools receive funding based on estimates provided to the state. February count day determines funding for January through June.

There is a minimum amount for each student, though a few other aspects affect how much schools receive, including students who need special services or come from low-income families.

For example, the state legislature this year cut off per-pupil funding for students 22 and older. Although unlikely to impact most schools, Kokomo is one of the few exceptions.

KSC placed an age cap on its Twilight School, an adult high school diploma program, because of the change. The program that once offered any person, regardless of age, an opportunity to earn a high school diploma is now only available to those younger than 22.

The legislative change and age cap by KSC will limit the amount of state funding the district receives. The amount is hard to quantify as Twilight enrollment fluctuates, but fewer students able to enroll will limit funding to some degree.

"Our Twilight enrollment numbers annually have been a reflection of the local economy, since many Twilight students returned to school to either better, or enhance, their employment opportunities in the marketplace," Barnes said.

Here's how the rest of the school districts in Howard, Miami and Tipton counties are shaping up.

Howard County

Taylor Community School Corporation is one of the districts sporting an increase this year. Enrollment at Taylor is up compared to both last spring and last fall's numbers.

Taylor has 1,264 students for the 2021-22 school year, up 37 from the spring. Last fall, Taylor had 1,239 students.

Western School Corporation is down 15 students from last fall, but up two from February. Current enrollment is 2,541.

Eastern Howard School Corporation came in at 1,556 students this fall, up 59 students from February.

Superintendent Keith Richie said Eastern lost students early last year when they opted to not have teachers instruct virtually and in person. A loss of 60 students was estimated, but Richie said most wanted to return by Christmas, and student count is back up to pre-pandemic levels.

Northwestern School Corporation's enrollment was not available, as the district is on fall break this week and Superintendent Kristen Bilkey was unavailable.

Miami County

Up in Miami County, Peru Community Schools is steady in enrollment.

Superintendent Sam Watkins said enrollment this fall is 1,930. Peru had projected 1,905 students.

"I'm just tinkled pink," Watkins said. "Parents like our school system. Kids like our school system. They're choosing to come here, we're happy."

Class sizes are holding steady at around 130 to 140 students but are smaller than the 200 average Peru historically had.

This is one of factors that went into Peru schools deciding to consolidate the junior high and high schools. Next school year, seventh and eighth graders will be at the high school building.

Construction is ongoing to prepare for the move.

Maconaquah School Corporation has about 1,938 students for the fall, down about 50 compared to February.

Tipton County

Tipton and Tri-Central are both satisfied with their student populations.

Tipton Community School Corporation reported 1,426 students enrolled this fall. Though down four from last fall, Superintendent Ryan Glaze said the student population is consistent.

Most grade levels are hovering around 100, 110 students. Glaze said seventh grade is above average, with about 140 students, and the high school grade levels are also a little larger.

Projections have Tipton's student population remaining consistent over the next five years, with no significant increases expected.

"It looks like we're going to be pretty stable, all things considered," Glaze said.

Tri-Central Community Schools is up 13 students from February, coming in at 746 students, only down three from last fall.

Superintendent Dave Driggs said Tri-Central's enrollment has been consistent for the last five years.

Tri-Central hopes its new agriculture and Future Farmers of America programs, both of which have been popular among students, entice more parents to send their students to the rural school.

With school choice — where students can attend a different school than their home district — it's all about standing out.

"All schools are trying to come up with programs that sell their (school)," Driggs said.

Personal preference and school choice can impact student population, but Driggs said the more influential factor on enrollment is what is happening in the county.

Economic factors, like an influx of jobs, can help bring people to a city or county, Driggs explained.

"There are jobs in the county," he said. "We just need people to live in the county."

Spencer Durham can be reached at 765-454-8598, by email at spencer.durham@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @Durham_KT.