LA CROSSE, WI - Area schools saw an increase in student enrollment this year, and officials are hoping if the trend continues, they'll be able to secure more funding for their districts.
La Crosse School District saw a net gain of 71 students, about 1 percent of its district population. It's a pretty impressive increase - the school has seen a steady decline in enrollment for the last 19 years.
According to Superintendent Randy Nelson, it's a huge step in the right direction for the district. But while open enrollment numbers haven't fluctuated much from last year, he's attributing the increase to the attractive options his schools offer.
"We're a school district that believes one size does not fit all, and so we pride ourselves in having a lot of choices and options for parents," Nelson said. "Those choicse and options, by word of mouth, bring students in."
The kind of increase La Crosse saw this year could add up to thousands of dollars per student for the district - but only if it continues. State funding is decided on a three-year rolling average, so La Crosse would have to keep adding kids in the future.22452888
"At the end of the day, we're not going to see an immediate impact on funding," Nelson said. "Until we see a three-year average that includes an increase, we're not likely to see a significant impact on our state aid."
Onalaska School District also had a higher head count for its 2013-14 school year. The district had a net gain of 21 students, even though its membership enrollment - the number of students who live in the district's area - decreased.
According to Larry Dalton, the school's director of finance and business services, that's because open enrollment was high for the district. It brought in a net of 62 more students than last year. That gain is crucial to Onalaska, because open enrollment provides a yearly average of $800,000 in revenue for the district.
"It's a very significant factor in our budget," Dalton said.
In general, the enrollment increase is nothing new for Onalaska - its student population has been on the up since its schools opened.
"We like to think it's because of the quality of our programs. We like to think that, but there's any number of other reasons, too," Dalton said of the continuing enrollment increase.
Neither district necessarily advertises its schools in order to get more students to enroll, but both officials said the La Crosse region and its appeal helps to attract families.
"We have a lot of things to offer here in the area," Nelson said. "Not just wonderful schools, but certainly outstanding communities, and great people."
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