Traditional enrollment down in WUSD

Other numbers balance out the decline, district officials say

By Dave Fidlin


Collective student enrollment within the five schools in the Whitewater Unified district decreased from September to January, officials announced recently, but other data reportedly has evened out the decline.

Business Manager Matthew Sylvester-Knudtson provided a glimpse into WUSD’s freshest set of figures at the most recent regular School Board meeting Jan. 25.

As is customary with all Wisconsin school districts, WUSD conducts a formal student count twice annually — weeks into a new school year and after the holiday hiatus — and reports the figures to the state Department of Public Instruction to determine state aid and other data.

In his report to the board, Sylvester-Knudtson confirmed traditional enrollment had slipped as fall gave way to winter.

“When we look at enrollment, from September to January, you’ll see that it actually decreased by 61 students,” Sylvester-Knudtson said. “However, with the tuition and other miscellaneous responsibilities we have increased by 63 (students).”

Traditional enrollment counts in mid-September clocked in 1,808 students and dropped down to 1,747 students in mid-January.

But the district’s tuition and miscellaneous category jumped from 34 students in mid-September to 97 students in mid-January. Sylvester-Knudtson said the charter JEDI Virtual School, which operates autonomously of WUSD, is the primary driver behind the enrollment spike in this category.

As with many districts, WUSD officials have been attempting to get their arms around short- and long-term enrollment projections as families have weighed the option of in-person or virtual instruction, as well as open enrolling in other districts, in the era of COVID-19.

With both columns in play, WUSD’s total enrollment increased by 2 students — from 1,842 attendees in September to 1,844 youth in the tally in January.

WUSD’s membership total — a figure taking into account all students (enrolled or not) living within its footprint in Whitewater and surrounding townships — held steady between September and January.

Membership in September was 2,038 youth and increased to 2,040 youth in January.


Budget planning update

In other recent business, the WUSD School Board discussed the preliminary phases of assembling the district’s budget for the 2021-22 school year.

As planning picks up steam, Sylvester-Knudtson said there is one notable guiding principle that has been built into the draft document. He said assumptions, at this phase in the planning, point to all staff returning to the assignments held prior to COVID-19.

The document also hints at WUSD tentatively offering traditional summer school classes and programs this year.

In July, Wisconsin will be in the first of two years for Gov. Tony Evers’ new biennial budget. To that end, Sylvester-Knudtson said he is not anticipating an uptick in state aid — a key revenue source alongside property taxes.

The state has been grappling with revenue shortfalls at the hands of COVID-19. Sales tax and other traditional income sources that fortify state operations have been pinched throughout the pandemic.


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