Johnson County public school districts see enrollment rebound but still fall short of projections

Three Johnson County school districts are seeing increases in enrollment after significant drops in student head count last year due to COVID-19. But both Shawnee Mission and USD 232 say they still aren't meeting enrollment projections, which could ultimately impact state funding. Above, students at Shawnee Mission South listen to an economy lecture.

The Shawnee Mission and USD 232 De Soto school districts are seeing slight student enrollment increases this fall compared to last year — but both districts still are not meeting projections.

The districts took student headcounts on Sept. 20, the state-mandated date to take schools’ official enrollment tallies.

Russell Knapp, Shawnee Mission’s chief financial officer, told the board during its Sept. 27 meeting there were 26,534 students enrolled as of that date for the 2021-22 school year.

That’s an increase of 422 students from 2020-21, which turned out to be the the lowest enrollment figure recorded in SMSD in five years.

This fall’s number for SMSD, though, falls 588 students short of what the district had projected, which could ultimately impact the amount of state funding the district receives.

Knapp told the board that districts’ state funding is based on the higher of the two prior years’ enrollment, meaning the 2021 headcount won’t impact the budget just yet.

The district is still using the pre-pandemic enrollment headcount from fall 2019 — when SMSD’s enrollment topped 27,500 — in order to determine its current level of state funding.

But starting next year, SMSD will have to start using one of the two figure from this year or last, when enrollment has been lower, to project state funding levels.

Other local districts’ enrollment data

Meanwhile, USD 232 in DeSoto is reporting 7,177 students enrolled for the 2021-22 school year, which is an increase of 231 students over last fall.

But like SMSD, De Soto’s enrollment figure falls short of district projections. This fall’s enrollment is 115 students shy of what the district projected.

Blue Valley is reporting 21,846 students enrolled for the 2021-22 school year, an increase of 224 students from fall 2020.

Like USD 232 and Shawnee Mission, Blue Valley’s enrollment took a hit in 2020.

According to data provided by the district, Blue Valley had almost 630 fewer students enrolled in 2020 than in 2019.

Blue Valley did not provide enrollment projections for 2021-22, as requested by the Shawnee Mission Post.

Kaci Brutto, director of communications, told the Post via email that total enrollment is normally within about 100 students of its projections.

“Last year, when we experienced an unexpected drop in enrollment similar to other districts in the area, the total was well below expectations set the year before, but still within the wider range of modeled possible outcomes,” Brutto said.

All three districts have until Oct. 8 to submit the current headcount, which will impact each district’s budget.

Knapp said after the Kansas Department of Education audits the Oct. 8 enrollment, he will present anticipated budget impacts for this year and the future to the board of education.