KCPS continues to face declining enrollment

Students and some of their parents walk into Kent County Middle School for their first day of school on Tuesday, Sept. 7. The middle school has shown an increase in student enrollment this year, driven in part by a large sixth-grade class.

ROCK HALL — With the state deadline for finalizing enrollment passed, Kent County Public Schools is officially reporting a drop of 25 students this year.

The enrollment figures were presented at a Board of Education meeting held Monday, Oct. 11. Tracey Williams, KCPS Supervisor of Secondary Education and Student Services, walked board members through this year’s enrollment figures as of Sept. 30.

That date is significant because the state uses the figures reported then as the measuring stick to help determine the school system’s funding in the next fiscal year.

“Overall you’re looking at a deficit of 25 students in terms of what you’re going to get funded for,” Williams told board members.

Part of the school funding formula is calculated at a per pupil rate, so a loss of 25 students means the overall funding for the school system will decrease. Pre-kindergarten enrollment, though, is not currently factored into the state’s formula.

The school system here was already expecting a decline in enrollment based on last year’s figures. Williams’s report shows that as of Sept. 30, 2020, there were 138 seniors at the high school preparing to exit the system and 122 kindergartners marking their first year in it.

While pre-K students do not factor directly into funding, Williams said their enrollment numbers did play a part in forecasting this year’s overall decline in students.

“We knew that our pre-K numbers were down somewhat last year,” Williams said, adding that many of the parents chose to either keep students home or enrolled them in a different program. “So looking at those 83 pre-K’ers from last year, 79 did return and we did have 43 new kindergartners that did not attend Kent County Public Schools’ pre-K.”

The three elementary schools show a total decrease of 17 students between kindergarten and fifth grade.

Galena Elementary’s enrollment remained flat with 268 students in kindergarten through fifth grade. With a total school population of 309, Garnet Elementary in Chestertown reported a decrease of three children. Rock Hall Elementary posted the largest drop among the elementary schools, having an enrollment decrease of 17 for a total population of 182 students.

Kent County Middle School in Chestertown is seeing an increase in the student population this year. It is up 13 students for a total enrollment between sixth and eight grades of 392.

Middle School Principal Mary Helen Spiri said the increased enrollment is due in part to a large sixth-grade class.

Williams said the team at the middle school did some recruiting among private school and homeschool families.

Kent County High School in Worton posted the largest decrease. With a total of 560 students, the report shows it is down 20 students between grades nine and 12.

Williams’ report shows how many new students enrolled and how many departed.

“Over the summer months we had about 166 students enrolling and 121 exiting,” Williams said.

The report shows that 58 of the new students came from another school system in Maryland and 18 from outside the state. Fifteen of the new students came from private schools, in and out of state, and five from foreign schools.

There were 27 students who enrolled in the school system this year after being homeschooled.

Among those 121 students who left KCPS, 48 enrolled at another public school in Maryland and 27 moved to a school system out of state. There were 21 students who enrolled in private school, in and out of state. Parents of 18 students opted to shift to homeschooling.

The Sept. 30 report each year also includes data on homeless students. This year there are 30 families totaling 43 students who are considered homeless.

“Ninety-nine percent of our homeless students are doubled-up,” Williams said, meaning the family may be living with a grandparent or a family friend. “That’s the key, it’s not a permanent situation.”

Williams said there is one family that does not have any home.

“The one things about being small is we know the families,” Williams said, so the school system is able to work with the Department of Social Services and other agencies to help get such families “back on their feet.”

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