Enrollment drop prompts division spending freeze

A drop in student enrollment has prompted a spending freeze at Shenandoah County Public Schools.

Schools Superintendent Jeremy Raley said they “made a very difficult decision to freeze expenditures” and that he has asked principals and department heads to be “extremely frugal” with their spending and only spend on the necessities.

Raley said they had to make a quick decision based on the declining enrollment and this was the best solution for the time being.

He noted that about 130 students have left the county schools since September 2014. Between September 2014 and this past March, he said 85 students left county schools, which is a much higher figure than the usual 20-student decrease in that time period in previous years.

Student enrollment and state funding are directly linked. As enrollment decreases, so does the funding provided by the state.

As a result of the decline, the Shenandoah County School Board is projecting a worst-case scenario loss of $893,000 of funds from the state of Virginia.

Schools submit their enrollment numbers to the county on Wednesday, but they are just internal figures used within the county. March 31 is the date when the official enrollment numbers are counted and sent to the state. That enrollment number is the figure that will impact the district’s 2016-2017 budget.

“No doubt there will be an instructional impact,” Raley said about next year’s budget. No programs have been cut, but there will be an impact on classroom equipment supplied to the schools.

Staff salaries and benefits will remain the same for the year, per contract.

Raley said that the north and south campuses have seen the largest drop in student enrollment in the county. Only three schools have seen an increase in enrollment, with nine new students at W.W. Robinson Elementary School, 21 new students at Signal Knob Middle School and eight new students at Central High School. All other schools saw a decrease in enrollment.

According to Raley, the 2016-2017 budget will be complicated if the enrollment keeps dropping throughout the school year.

Contact staff writer Kaley Toye at 540-465-5137 ext. 1176, or ktoy@nvdaily.com