NewsCovering Colorado


Schools face major budget shortfalls due to enrollment drops as funding deadline approaches

District leaders are hoping the state will have some leniency this year
Posted at 8:48 PM, Sep 29, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-30 08:50:07-04

COLORADO SPRINGS — While schools have been back in session for about a month or so, leaders in districts across the country are finding fewer students have returned. Now, districts in Colorado could face some major money shortfalls if students don't enroll quickly.

"It's a national crisis of, where are students? They're not coming back to school, all of them," Harrison School District 2 co-superintendent Wendy Birhanzel said.

It's another hurdle to jump.

"We're having that crisis in El Paso County as well," she said. "The superintendents are all talking about, how do we find our kids?"

In Harrison District 2, they started the semester light.

"At the beginning of September, we were missing about 800 students," Birhanzel said. Thanks to a community effort, the district has been able to drop that number to around 350 as of Tuesday.

It's a similar story down I-25 in D70.

"There have been students who have really had to pick up some of the housework or they might be home managing smaller siblings," D70 spokesperson Todd Seip said.

Gov. Jared Polis addressed the issue at his press conference Tuesday.

"We do know, while we don't have the full picture yet, enrollment is down... that concerns me greatly," Polis said.

An enrollment drop would mean fewer resources for districts.

"It's pretty rough on us because every student represents a portion of our funding," Seip said.

"In Colorado, October 1 is count day. So whatever students are there is how we get funded locally," Birhanzel said.

District leaders are hoping the state will have some leniency this year.

"That would be fabulous if we could get some not necessarily financial help, but maybe a relaxing of the deadlines," Seip said.

"I can tell you our local superintendents would like us to use last year's numbers, just as a reprieve," Birhanzel said.

But leaders say while other states have allowed things like that, in Colorado, they're still in the dark.

"It's been frustrating kind of the lack of information we've gotten from the Colorado Department of education. in fact the last information we received from them was mid June," Seip said.