SLC School District Returns To Virtual Classroom, Sees Drop In Enrollment

Sep 15, 2020, 12:23 AM | Updated: 1:35 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Students in the Salt Lake City School District finally had their first day of online-only classes Monday.

The delays came after the district was short about 6,000 devices for students to learn from home before last week’s major windstorm knocked out power to thousands of homes.

But enrollment in the district has taken a big hit since schools announced they would be online-only, which could bring a whole new set of problems beyond COVID-19.

At least 13 percent of their students have left. That may not sound huge, but it is enough to create big problems for Salt Lake schools. And as KSL’s Deanie Wimmer learned, it is one reason why the state is stepping in.

“I thought of all the kids, she’s the one who needs to be in class, absolutely,” said Raina Williams.

Her daughter, Alice Williams, transferred from her Salt Lake school and enrolled in the Granite School District so she could attend fifth grade classes in person. She was in good company — around 3,000 Salt Lake students are also gone.

“There are a lot of implications — one will be funding, for sure,” said Salt Lake City School District spokeswoman Yándary Chatwin.

Enrollment dropped from 23,000 to 20,000 students over last year. The district doesn’t have data to pinpoint why students are leaving, but a spokeswoman said COVID-19 could be one of the reasons.

Recent census numbers show Utah spends about $7,600 per student. So the funding that follows those who’ve left means a loss of nearly $23 million for the district, which concerned Raina Williams.

“If they’re even going to be able to support the teachers and staff they have with so many kids leaving,” she said.

Yes, that is another implication. Since Utah’s average class size is around 24, that means Salt Lake City could have 125 too many teachers.

“With fewer students, there’s possibly a need for fewer teachers,” Chatwin said. “We’re not looking at that right now, so this isn’t meant to scare any employees or members of our community. Right now, we’re focused on getting our school year off to a great start.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has raised a lot of unknowns for schools, since student funding is largely calculated on daily attendance.

It is easier when the teacher can take roll. What happens when students are learning from home? Or if a teacher has a zoom session that only lasts two hours — would that count for the entire day?

“We need to be flexible,” said Sen. Ann Millner, R-Ogden. “We need to make decisions based on the trends and we need to provide flexibility.”

State lawmakers in a special session relaxed standards requiring 990 hours of instruction.

They plan to hold more than one official “head count” during the school year, believing numbers will shift, based on COVID-19 developments. And the biggest change voters this election will get to decide is whether or not to amend the state constitution on how schools are funded.

“To be able to put guarantees in place around enrollment growth and an inflation factor for the WPU that schools and charter schools can depend on every year,” Millner said.

“One of the most important things, it prioritizes education funding above any other spending or discretionary spending which has never been done before in this state,” said Rep. Mike Schultz, R-Hooper.

We’ll hear about that in the coming months. But for now, schools that are losing students are essentially on a budget notice.

“Definitely concerning to our district,” said Chatwin.

They and families are taking a leap of faith that in this unprecedented year, hoping they’ll have the resources they need.

“She’s got a great attitude about it and she’ll meet new friends and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that it goes well,” Williams said.

The first “head count” was last week. Salt Lake City school district officials will present their latest numbers to their board Tuesday.

KSL wondered if Davis District had lost students since they started a hybrid school schedule. But they won’t release their enrollment numbers for another month.

KSL 5 TV Live

Top Stories

Back to School

cool zone interactive map to beat the heat...
Cary J. Schwanitz, KSL TV

Salt Lake County sets up cooling locations to escape ‘dangerous’ heatwave

Temperatures are expected to rise high enough in the next few days for Salt Lake County to set up several cooling stations where people can stay safe in the heat.
17 days ago
(KSL TV)...
Ladd Egan, KSL TV

Money for Utah teacher bonuses headed to districts by June

Teachers who took on extra work during the omicron surge will soon be getting a thank you in their paychecks
3 months ago
(KSL TV)...

Mask mandates go away in schools, but parent worries persist

Major school districts around the country are allowing students into classrooms without masks for the first time in nearly two years, eliminating rules that stirred up intense fights among educators, school boards, and parents throughout the pandemic.
4 months ago
FILE: STEM teacher Julie Nye at Lone Peak Elementary (KSL TV)...
Eliza Pace & Ladd Egan, KSL TV

Gov. Cox allows state employees time off to substitute teach in local schools

Gov. Spencer Cox issued an executive order Monday allowing state employees to take approved leave from work to substitute teach or fill other needed positions in Utah schools.
5 months ago
FILE PHOTO (Cache County School District)...
Josh Ellis, KSL TV

Cache County schools adjust schedules due to student, staff absenteeism

The Cache County School District has announced adjusted schedules for all of its schools due to "unprecedented student and staff absenteeism."
5 months ago
FILE PHOTO: Viewmont High School student Becca Marsden is tested for COVID-19 by Davis School Distr...
Tamara Vaifanua, KSL TV

Utah House votes to suspend Test to Stay program

Lawmakers in the Utah House of Representatives have approved a bill that would suspend the state's Test to Stay program and clarify how schools would request to go remote.
5 months ago

Sponsored Articles

hand holding 3d rendering mobile connect with security camera for security solutions...
Les Olson

Wondering what security solutions are right for you? Find out more about how to protect your surroundings

Physical security helps everyone. Keep your employees, clients, and customers safe with security solutions that protect your workplace.
Many rattan pendant lights, hay hang from the ceiling.Traditional and simple lighting....
Lighting Design

The Best Ways to Style Rattan Pendant Lighting in Your Home

Rattan pendant lights create a rustic and breezy feel, and are an easy way to incorporate this hot trend into your home decor.
Earth day 2022...

How Are You Celebrating Earth Day 2022? | 4 Simple Ways to Celebrate Earth Day and Protect the Environment

Earth Day is a great time to reflect on how we can be more environmentally conscious. Here are some tips for celebrating Earth Day.
Get Money Online...

More Ways to Get Money Online Right Now in Your Spare Time

Here are 4 easy ways that you can get more money online if you have some free time and want to make a little extra on the side.
Lighting trends 2022...

Lighting Trends 2022 | 5 Beautiful Home Lighting Trends You Can Expect to See this Year and Beyond

This is where you can see the latest lighting trends for 2022 straight from the Lightovation Show at the Dallas World Trade Center.
What Can't You Throw Away in the Trash...

What Can’t You Throw Away in the Trash? | 5 Things You Shouldn’t Throw in to Your Trash Can

What can't you throw away in the trash? Believe it or not, there are actually many items that shouldn't be thrown straight into the trash.
SLC School District Returns To Virtual Classroom, Sees Drop In Enrollment