by Heidi L. Everett
When students returned to Kennedy Community School Sept. 9, fewer students were in the hallways due to lower enrollment this year.
“Kennedy had the largest single-site change. They are down 45 students,” said Amy Skaalerud, executive director of finance and business services for District 742, at the Sept. 22 school board meeting.
Throughout the district, total elementary school enrollment is on par with 2020 elementary school numbers; it’s only down by four students.
Kennedy enrollment is down by 17 students in kindergarten through grade five and down by 28 students in grades six through eight. In comparison throughout the district, Discovery Elementary School enrollment is down 23 students, while Lincoln and Talahi Elementary Schools both saw enrollment increases of more than 20 students.
At the high school level, Apollo enrollment is at 1,555 students, near last year’s enrollment of 1,559.
“Is this ebb and flow somewhat natural (throughout) the years, and is there a point where these numbers would cause us concern?” asked Les Green, school board member.
Skaalerud said some district schools have a mobile population, so enrollment will fluctuate while other schools tend to remain consistent.
“Kennedy is a good example of that,” Skaalerud said. “Historically, their enrollment had been more stable . . . so Kennedy is a site where we’ve seen some significant decline.”
Skaalerud said she suspects this decline is partially due to open enrollment as well as families converting to homeschooling or other options because of a COVID-related concern.
“If that trend were to continue, we as a district would start to say what’s going on there,” she said.
At that point, recruitment and retention would be the focus, she said.
The district learns of students not returning when records requests are made from other districts or notifications are received from families. If a student simply doesn’t return, the school follows up to learn what is happening.
“I’d like to see a deep dive into why families are pulling their students from this district and moving them and enrolling them into other districts,” said school board member Al Dahlgren. “What are they looking for? What could we do differently, so we could retain those students?”