September 27, 2022

Although administrators are cautious, the numbers are looking good

Enrollment is up at Newton leading up to count date

Newton Superintendent Tom Messinger shares enrollment data with school board members on Sept. 12 inside the Berg Middle School library.

With only a few weeks left until school districts submit their certified enrollment for state funding for the next year, Newton Community School District is seeing a big boost in students. Superintendent Tom Messinger shared current enrollment data on Sept. 12, which shows the district has more students than last year.

“Compared to what we were a year ago, in grades K-12 we are up 52 students,” Messinger said. “And it’s a little bit more difficult to say exactly for preschool, but we’re up approximately 20 students on the preschool level. Preschool students are counted as half a student (for funding) with the exception of special needs.”

Factoring in Iowa’s cost per pupil of $7,413, Newton schools would see more than $385,476 in state funding just from its non-preschool students. However, Messinger noted that these numbers could fluctuate drastically by Oct. 1, especially after the legislature lifted the open enrollment deadline.

Enrollment has been a sore subject for Newton for some time. Now that the open enrollment deadline of March 1 has been removed, Messinger is worried it could alter the final count. The numbers at least seem to fluctuate more now than they do in a typical year, he said.

In years past, the only ways for a student to open enroll out after the deadline had to be as a result of a move or pervasive harassment. The new law removing the deadline was passed late in the legislative session. Schools from across the state worried the change would have a negative effect on planning.

“It sets your budget,” Messinger said. “The other piece of it is planning purposes in classrooms. We set our class lists the first week of August for the elementary level for example. Well, when you have more ins and outs after March 1 and there’s no more deadline, there are still open enrollments in and out.”

Which is requiring districts to guess more or less.

Preschool numbers for Newton schools are difficult to get the exact number on, Messinger said, and that is mainly because of the new partnership with Peck Child Development Center and the extended partnership with YMCA to provide preschool curriculum. Even then it’s not an apples to apples comparison.

Iowa only provides funding to preschool children who are 4 years old. However, 3-year-olds can be considered if they are in special education. That is the number that typically changes, Messinger said, because as kids are able to be identified at age 3 they can enroll into the program.

“That number will fluctuate a little bit,” he said. “We already know there’s more kids that are being looked at as part of that process that would come in to our preschool numbers. The special education count date, I believe, is Nov. 1 rather than Oct. 1. So you do have a little bit more time for that.”

Still, the current enrollment data is something positive for Messinger to latch onto. But Messinger remembers last year. The district’s enrollment dropped from count date until the end of the year. Which tells him just because Newton is at a certain number of students now does not mean it will stay that way.

For funding purposes, a jump of 52 students could be a little less than $400,000 extra for the district to utilize. Coupled with the $75,000 or so from preschool numbers, the district would be pushing a half-million dollars in extra state dollars. It’s a trend that certainly beats the other trend the district was on.

“With that Oct. 1 date coming around, it definitely appears that this year we’re not going to be continuing that trend of negative enrollment numbers,” he said.

Here are the number of students per grade in Newton schools as of September:

• Kindergarten, 204

• 1st Grade, 203

• 2nd Grade, 200

• 3rd Grade, 199

• 4th Grade, 211

• 5th Grade, 215

• 6th Grade, 202

• 7th Grade, 215

• 8th Grade, 214

• 9th Grade, 234

• 10 Grade, 246

• 11th Grade, 244

• 12th Grade, 250

Contact Christopher Braunschweig at 641-792-3121 ext 560 or at cbraunschweig@newtondailynews.com

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig

Christopher Braunschweig has a strong passion for community journalism and covers city council, school board, politics and general news in Newton, Iowa and Jasper County.