Rapid City Area Schools projected enrollment for the 2020-21 school year to be 13,500 before COVID-19, but final enrollment data from the Department of Education shows the district has 12,690 students in K-12.
While the district missed its pre-COVID-19 mark by 810 students, the district had anticipated 13,000 students by the time the pandemic hit. Even if the district had reached that enrollment count, a decline of nearly 450 students from 2019-20 when the district had 13,462 students in its final enrollment count could cost the district $2.9 million in state funding.
Superintendent Lori Simon estimates the enrollment decline of 772 students may cost the school district as much as $5.1 million.
“My message continues to be for state leaders to find some way to hold us harmless or make some adjustments this year given the unique situation we are encountering,” she said.
Simon said she attributes the enrollment decline to an increase of more than 500 families that chose to either homeschool, go to a private school, or open enroll in another district.
“At the end of the day, it’s a very unusual year and I certainly believe we’ll bounce back in a normal year,” she said.
Enrollment has dropped off since 2018 for the school district. The following official enrollment counts since 2010 for the district’s K-12 students are:
Simon said despite the enrollment decline, the school district has had to hire more teachers and staff, and still struggles to meet needs for more space.
“Certainly, we know space is already a concern in many of our schools, and we believe it will continue to be a struggle as we see the community grow,” she said. “The most urgent and pressing needs are the age and condition of our oldest buildings.”