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Enrollment lower than district initially reported

Slightly fewer students are enrolled in Ashland schools this fall than the district initially reported, new data shows.

But the latest information, released last week, does confirm the district's initial report that enrollment increased for the first time in 11 years.

"We're very glad to see this one-year positive change and we're hoping this is a harbinger of things to come," said Superintendent Juli Di Chiro.

Di Chiro said at September's School Board meeting that initial reports showed the district's enrollment had increased by 83 students. But the data released last week shows enrollment increased by only 67 students.

"We'd only been in school a couple of days when I brought those numbers and they're always soft at that point," Di Chiro said this morning.

School officials have to keep all students in the district's database for 10 days at the beginning of the school year, even if they haven't showed up at school, said Samuel Bogdanove, the district's director of student services.

During that time, administrators try to contact the students' parents to see if the students are returning, he said.

"Sometimes it takes a while to get pretty firm enrollment numbers," Bogdanove said. "Sometimes a lot of families — believe it or not — are still in transition at the beginning of the school year."

The most recent figures show this school year's enrollment has increased about 2.5 percent over last year's, and is about 3.5 percent higher than analysts predicted.

It's unclear exactly why enrollment increased this year, Di Chiro said.

"The simple answer is we had more kids moving into the district than we had moving out," she said. "I don't have any good insight into why that happened this year."

Enrollment increased at every school except Ashland Middle School, where it fell 3.7 percent.

This occurred because the class of students coming into the middle school was significantly smaller than the one leaving it, said Jill Turner, the district's business manager.

"That was expected, because those smaller cohorts of students are now hitting the middles school," Di Chiro said. "The surprise was that we didn't decline in other places."

Enrollment increased the most at Willow Wind Community Learning Center, where there are 27 more full-time students than last school year. Enrollment increased by 18 students at both Bellview Elementary School and Ashland High School, and by 15 students at Helman Elementary School. Enrollment gains at the district's other schools were smaller.

The increase in enrollment means that the district will receive more state funding this year. The state should send the district a funding estimate in January, Bogdanove said.

The district receives roughly $6,000 per student each year, but that figure can vary based on factors such as whether the student is a member of a minority group or in special education.

The enrollment increase and budget cuts have resulted in more crowded classrooms this school year — something school officials say they can do little about without more money.

"It's all due to money," Di Chiro said. "We do not have any additional funds to spend on staffing right now."

Contact staff writer Hannah Guzik at 482-3456 ext. 226 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.