Jessica Cejnar / Friday, Sept. 25 @ 1:17 p.m.

DNUSD Enrollment Down 260 From Last Year; Space May Be A Challenge For Parents Waiting Until In-Person Classes Resume Next Month

The news that 260 fewer students are attending Del Norte County schools compared to last year shocked at least one trustee Thursday.

“That’s a whole school basically,” said Angela Greenough, Trustee Area 2 representative on the Del Norte Unified School District board. “Last year we had 298 kindergartners. This year we have 219, so we’re missing 20. That’s a kindergarten classroom that’s gone MIA.”

Though Assistant Superintendent of Business Jeff Napier gave his 13th-day enrollment report as an information item, Greenough and her colleagues asked questions about where the 260 students had gone to and whether they were among the district’s higher needs pupils.

DNUSD Superintendent Jeff Harris asked Napier to work with Ryan Bahten, the district’s director of information network services, to answer trustees’ questions.

Del Norte Unified students began lessons online on Aug. 31 and the district began bringing small groups of special needs pupils back into the classroom on Monday.

Though some parents may be waiting for in-person instruction to resume before they allow their students to go back to school, Harris urged them to register with the district. DNUSD is legally required to enroll students in school, but space may be an issue if parents wait, he said.

“Right now we’re taking some preference, but if people aren’t registered when they come in, it’s going to be beyond preference,” he said. “At this point, it’s going to be where ever there’s space.”

Waiting too long may also affect a parent’s ability to enroll their child in the school that’s closest to their home, Harris said.

“We’re required to enroll (a student) within the district, we’re not required to enroll them at their school where they live in that attendance zone,” Harris said. “It may be an administrative transfer to where there is room.”

Harris said student enrollment was dropping in districts all over the state. Having sat in on meeting with other school district superintendents, legislators and representatives of the Department of Finance and state governor’s office, Harris said one school district lost about 1,000 students.

Greenough, also noting that the number of first graders and seventh graders have decreased, asked if students enrolled at local charter schools.

“I’m concerned that these classes are gone,” she said. “Do we know if they transferred to Castle Rock or USA or to their own program?”

Harris told trustees that when families leave the school district, parents are asked to provide a “leave reason.” He said district staff can also look at the demographics of the families that are leaving to help determine what their situation may be.

Napier said DNUSD can also get an idea of where a student went if their new school district asks for their records.

Del Norte Unified School District is expected to start its Phase 3 blended learning model, bringing K8 students back in 50 percent cohorts, on Oct. 5. This approach has half a class coming to school for the first two days of the week and the other half taking their place another two days.

When they’re not in the classroom, students will be engaged in distance learning online.

Though they said they were excited for their kids to go back to their campuses, many parents wanted district staff to assure them that transition wouldn’t be delayed.

This request comes after DNUSD transition from a fully online learning model to bringing small groups of its highest needs students back into the classroom was postponed a week.

“My older son needs to be back in class,” said Jason Bartholemew, who has two special needs students. “Today we’re on day two of a melt down where he refused to log on. Everybody’s working as hard as they can, but there’s so many things you guys are missing.”


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