Enrollment hikes again at RC schools

By Jon Tatting—

Rush City schools is once again experiencing an increase in students, which is good news since revenue is tied to enrollment.

Recently district business manager Laureen Frost briefed the school board on enrollment trends and how they impact the district’s budget. On March 15 board members approved a revised 2011-12 budget that continues to show healthy fund balances, as planning for the 2012-13 preliminary budget is in progress.

Outside the meeting, Superintendent Vern Koepp has said that Rush City is fortunate to have an enrollment increase of about 20 students for the second year in a row. This while many schools are poised to reduce staff and programs this spring.

Since school revenue is generated by student membership, revenue increase and careful management of the budget has enabled the district to add staff to previously reduced areas and support new initiatives, Koepp noted.

For example, instructors have been added to support students struggling in math or reading, and the district has expanded use of instructional technology while completing some facility projects that had been postponed, he said.

The school district further has continued to provide effective class sizes in reading, writing and math at both the elementary and high school, along with securing solid fund balances to pay the bills – even as the state is delaying 40 percent of state aid payments until next school year.

How enrollment generates revenue

According to Frost, the average enrollment over the past 13 years has been about 933 students.

While student membership did grow to around 968 in 2003-04 and even 962 in 2005-06, enrollment, as the economy, went on a downward spiral dipping to as low as about 860 students in 2009-10.

For Rush City, however, enrollment began to rise with 880 for 2010-11 and climbed even more to 904 at last September’s count.

As of February, presented Frost, the count was revised to 889, which is still not bad since 20 less was originally budgeted for the year.

Her enrollment estimate for 2012-13 is 878 and 880 for 2013-14. She considers both estimates on the conservative side.

Frost calculates how revenue is generated from enrollment by factoring in pupil units in average daily membership (ADM), which is the actual total headcount of students in a school district, and the weighted average daily membership (WADM), which reflects the total pupil unit categories for a school district.

Through pupil weighting, one kindergarten pupil is equal to .612 pupil units, an elementary pupil in grades 1-3 is worth 1.115 pupil units, a pupil in grades 4-6 is 1.06 pupil units and a secondary pupil in grades 7-12 is equal to 1.3 pupil units. Another amount is figured for a preschool pupil with disabilities.

Another part of the equation is the basic general education formula allowance (basic revenue), which the state Legislature has set at $5,124 per marginal pupil unit.

To illustrate how the equation works, Frost pointed to the preliminary 2011-12 budget, from September through February, following the Feb. 16 board meeting:

For Rush City students in grades 7-12, the ADM or total number of these students is 417.92. By multiplying this number by the grade level’s weighting factor of 1.3, the result is a 543.30 WADM or weighted average daily membership.

The district can then determine that $2,783,869 in revenue will be generated by this category when multiplying this formula’s weighted average (again, 543.3) by the basic general education formula allowance or basic revenue ($5,124).

In fact, by adding the weighted averages of all student formulas — from early childhood through the secondary level — the total weighed average is 1,037.51. Multiplying this by the basic revenue of $5,124 means these enrollment figures are generating $5,316,201 districtwide, which is the biggest part of the district’s revenue stream, said Frost.

However, it does take a good year before the district actually receives the funds from enrollment revenue, she added.

High school report

High school principal Stuart Fuhs noted the Rush City team of Shelby Schommer, Scott Rosa and Zhoe Chavez placed second in sportsmanship at the 35th annual Chisago County Work Skills Day competition.

The Concert Choir and Wind Ensemble both received Superior ratings during the MSHSL large group contest, which was hosted by Rush City. Fuhs added, “These prestigious ratings are a result of a lot of hard work and dedication from our music students.”

Congratulations to the Knowledge Bowl for placing sixth at the district competition, he continued. This qualifies the students for the regional competition in Sartell.

The high school speech team has been working hard and taking home medals and trophies from all over Minnesota. These students placed third at invitational meets in Princeton, Pine City and North Branch.

Fuhs said Rush City photography students have a youtube.com channel that displays slideshows of their photography with new work being posted bi-monthly. Their latest stop-action films (30 photos taken in succession) can be found at http://www.youtube.com/user/ArtSeePeople/feed.

Also, 57 ninth through 12th grade students and 36 seventh and eighth graders qualified for the Presidential Academic Award, sponsored by the National Association of Secondary School Principals. To qualify, noted Fuhs, a student must have a 3.5 GPA and be in the top 20 percent of students on a standardized state or national test in reading or math.

Elementary news

Jacobson Elementary principal Melody Tenhoff was pleased to say her students raised $1,883.50 for this year’s Pennies for Patients Drive. This marks the best year ever as the students raised more than $570 over last year’s record setting drive.

The first round of MCA math testing is complete, said Tenhoff, and the results are going home to parents. The second round will start the week after Spring Break.

Also, parents and the community with Internet savvy can keep track of what’s going on at school through the school’s new Twitter feed. Follow or share a tweet “@RushCitySchools.”

In other news, the board:

• Tabled action on a possible policy change indicating whether the Rush City Youth Sports Association should be treated the same as other student-oriented nonprofit groups, such as the PTO, particularly when it comes to use of school district facilities and the costs or lack of costs involved.

• Authorized Amie Shockman, a paraprofessional, an extended unpaid leave of eight days, to the end of the school year.

• Approved the 2012-13 Rush City Schools Calendar, which includes 174 instructional days for students. Classes will begin Tuesday, Sept. 4; winter break, Dec. 24 through Jan. 1; spring break, March 29 through April 1; and the last day of classes will be May 31, 2013, with an early release.

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