Prairie Hills USD No. 113: Enrollment is down 3 percent, board learns

Student headcounts in Prairie Hills USD No. 113 are down about 3 percent, the Board of Education learned at its regular meeting Monday, Oct. 9. Down 32 as a whole, the district saw drops of 11.8 percent at Wetmore, 5.4 percent at Axtell and 0.38 percent at Sabetha.

This information is based on the Sept. 20 enrollment data that recently has been reported to the state.

Despite this drop in student headcounts, the district’s base FTE (Full Time Equivalency) enrollment increased 0.3 from the previous year’s base FTE.

While headcount is a basic counting of “heads in the school,” base FTE is a student count that considers amount of time each student is being educated.

For example, a preschool student would generally be counted as 0.5 instead of 1, and a student who only receives certain classes at the school would be factored down from 1. The base FTE is typically lower than the headcount.

This year’s discrepancy between headcount and base FTE is largely due to state’s new education finance bill, which implemented full funding for kindergarten students. In the past, kindergarten students were only partially funded — essentially, those students have gone from counting as 0.5 to counting as 1.

At Sabetha, while the headcount showed a decline of three students, the base FTE came out to a 17.3 student increase.

At Axtell, the headcount showed a 10-student decrease, but the base FTE came out to just a 1.5 student drop.

While Wetmore’s headcount showed a 32-student decrease, its base FTE came out to a 15.5 student drop.

To further confuse matters, actual state funding is based upon “weighted” FTE, which takes base FTE a step further and provides additional “weighting” for certain factors, such as low and high enrollment and at-risk student population. This “weighted” FTE is typically higher than the headcount.

Superintendent Todd Evans noted, however, that the current year’s funding is not based on the current year’s enrollment, but rather the enrollment from either the previous year or the year before that — whichever is higher.

This year’s “weighted” FTE enrollment was not yet figured, Evans said.

Viability Concerns

USD No. 113 has experienced a 3.8 percent decline in student headcounts in the past five years. In 2013-14, the district’s headcount was 1,136; now, it is 1,093 — a 43-student drop. Sabetha has dropped nine students, or 1 percent; Axtell has dropped two, or 1 percent; and Wetmore has dropped 32 students, or 18 percent.

Lowered enrollment are cause for concern when the school board considers financial viability, though an increase in funding overall might be enough to compensate for the drops.

A meeting of the Finance Committee will be held prior to the board’s regular meeting in November, allowing that committee to review enrollment and finances to determine any recommendations to the regular board.

Evans said he would like to see the finances — both revenue and expenses — to be evaluated using the actual weighting split of the schools, rather than the set 70 percent Sabetha, 15 percent Axtell, 15 percent Wetmore as has been done in the past.

The actual split will be slightly different, and would be more accurate, Evans said. The board agreed to this recommendation.

The Finance Committee will meet on Oct. 24 to review the district and building revenues and expenditures and apply financial viability standards as previously set by the board. The Committee will present findings and, recommendations if necessary, to the full board at its regular November meeting.

See full meeting report on Page 5B of this week’s Herald.

Amber Deters136 Posts

<p>Amber Deters is Co-Editor of The Sabetha Herald, where she has been on staff since 2005. She specializes in school board, election and legislative reporting, as well as photography and page and advertising design. Amber is a 2005 Kansas State University graduate with a degree in journalism and mass communications, print journalism sequence.<br /> She lives in Sabetha with her husband and three children.</p>

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