The Platteville School District has scored above average in each of the first two state school report cards.
The school district has more nationally certified teachers than any other school district west of Madison and south of La Crosse.
So why is the school district shrinking in enrollment?
School district superintendent Connie Valenza believes it may be because of the housing, or lack thereof, attractive to young families in Platteville.
Valenza’s comments came during a discussion of the difference in enrollment between the beginning of the first semester and the second semester, and a School Board vote Jan. 28 on how many students will be allowed to open-enroll into the school district.
“I don’t think there’s a school-related cause,” said Valenza. “My sense is it has to do with housing and young families moving into Platteville.”
Valenza said young families seek newer and less expensive houses than those found in Platteville.
“Some districts that are growing tend to have an increase in that young-family kind of housing,” said Valenza, who added there was “still a trend toward decline in enrollment in Wisconsin in rural [school] districts.”
The school district shrank in enrollment from 1,522 in September to 1,515 in January. Enrollment at Platteville High School dropped by five students, and enrollment at Platteville Middle School dropped by four students, while enrollment at Westview Elementary School increased by two students. One student also came into the school district through open enrollment.
The school district’s Full-Time-Equivalent count — a weighted count that counts four-year-old kindergarten students, for instance, as 0.56 of a student, and counts three-year-olds as 0.5 of a student — dropped by nine from September to January, to 1,452. FTEs count students living in a school district and going to school there, as well as students living in that school district but going to school in another school district.
Each student brings in almost $10,000 in state aid.
“Nine means nine less students that our aid from the state is based on,” said Valenza. “If we don’t shift this decline, we’re going to start to feel the financial effects.”
Students who open-enroll into the school district bring in about half the state aid that students who move into the school district. But, said school district business manager Art Beaulieu, “Having open-enroll going out is not a good thing.”
The School Board approved open enrollment limits for four-year-old kindergarten through eighth grade. There are no open-enrollment limits at Platteville High School.
Next school year, the school district will let in up to 15 students each for four-year-old and five-year-old kindergarten, up to 21 students for seventh grade, up to 13 students for eighth grade, up to 10 students for second grade, and up to five students each for first grade and third grade. School district policy seeks to limit class size to 24 students in each first- through third-grade section.
The school district will let in no students for next year’s fourth grade and fifth grade, because the school district already will be at its limit of 25 students per fourth- and fifth-grade section.
Next year’s sixth grade may or may not let in more students. Valenza said the current fifth grade has 27 students per section. Adding another sixth-grade teacher next year would reduce class size to 21 per class, which would allow the school district to let in 20 more sixth-grade students.
Valenza said an additional sixth-grade teacher is in the early version of the 2014–15 school district budget, as well as an additional fourth-grade teacher.