Fewer MUSD students turned up Day One than projected


Maricopa Unified School District officials were 169 students short of their projection in the number of students starting the 2013-2014 school year, which could impact the amount of money the state will give the district the following school year.

The district projected 5,949 students would attend the first day of school Aug. 5, but 5,780 showed up. Superintendent Steve Chestnut shared the figures with the school board during its meeting this week.

Every education level saw lower turnout except for middle schools, which had an overall increase of 20 students.

The biggest single drop was in the number of anticipated kindergarten students.

Chestnut said predicting student enrollment numbers is an “educated guess” made from numbers of students expected to return, examining the building permits issued for new houses being built that could contain potential students, and average numbers of new students each year that become of age.

In the 2012-2013 school year, student enrollment totals fluctuated before ending the year with 65 more student than the start of the year.

“It’s rare that (the district) gets the numbers precisely,” Chestnut said.

The implications can be far reaching for school districts. Funding from the state is based on enrollment. If numbers are down, Chestnut said, staff members might have to be reduced. If the district predicts too low, more money will have to be spent on hiring new teachers.

If there isn’t enough money to hire any new staff members, teachers can find their classes overfilled.

However, Chestnut said he was confident the total number of students enrolled would increase throughout the year.

During Wednesday’s meeting, board President Torri Anderson said “there is no money in this (legislative) session to fund all-day kindergarten. If we asked (for funds) we wouldn’t get any,” after board Vice President Patti Coutré asked how many students dropped out of the half-day kindergarten program.

“We need to find other ways possibly next session to secure funds if we wish to get our full-day back,” Anderson said.

Tom Beckett, the district’s human resources, said 61 of the 169 fewer students were kindergarten level.

***ADVERTISEMENT***In March, the board cut all-day kindergarten to a half-day schedule, despite vocal opposition from parents. The district faced a $1 million budget shortfall.

For several years, the district offered a full-day kindergarten program after the state cut it’s funding to half-day only. The district is saving $480,000 by not offering full-day kindergarten; it is offering a tuition-based half-day to supplement the free half-day.

Getting rid of full-day kindergarten wasn’t an easy decision for Chestnut.

“It breaks my heart,” Chestnut said earlier this year.