At the February 16 school board meeting, John Carlson, Executive Director of Finance, provided enrollment projection information to the Rochester School Board.
Enrollment projections form the basis of the next year’s revenue budget which is why reviewing these numbers is of importance for the district.
On February 19, the Minnesota Department of Education released enrollment data for Minnesota schools. The change in the number of students enrolled in Minnesota prekindergarten through grade 12 schools is driven primarily by younger students with a 9% drop in public kindergarten enrollment between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. Conversely, there was an increase in the number of younger students choosing nonpublic options, with a 12.4% increase in kindergarten enrollment between the 2019-20 and 2020-21 school years. The most significant increase is seen in the number of students in home school—a 49.5% increase from last school year. Additionally, the decline in enrollment broken down by race and ethnicity shows that while most demographics held relatively steady with slight increases in enrollment over the 2019-20 school year, the vast majority of the decline in enrollment in public schools is seen in our white students. Statewide, white student enrollment saw a 3.7% decrease from the previous school year which translates to more than 20,000 students. To read this full report, visit MDE online.
In October 2020, Rochester Public Schools enrollment declined to 17,635 students. It is believed that was primarily because of the COVID-19 global pandemic. Last year, the projection for October 2020 was 18,446 students. This means the projection was missed by 811 students but it was an actual decline of 661 students. On September 1, 2020, the reasons given for leaving Rochester Public Schools were:
- 25% moved out of the local area
- 21% moved out of state or country
- 13% paid for private school
- 13% chose homeschooling (not the same as distance learning)
- 11% had not provided a reason for leaving
- 8% enrolled in an online school (for distance learning but not RPS distance learning)
- 6% open-enrolled into another local district like Byron, Stewartville, Pine Island, or Dover-Eyota
- 1% enrolled in a local public charter school
- 1% refused services
- <1% dropped out
- <1% entered a GED program
Five-Year Historical Enrollment
Non-Public, Charter, and Home School Options
The projection indicates that the District is likely to experience increases in enrollment again in all the next five years. Based upon available data, the total District enrollment is projected to rise to 17,743 students in October 2021. This would be an increase of 108 students (0.6%) from October 2020. The projections are possibly conservative; staff have assumed 25% of the students who left for other options will re-enroll for 2021-2022 but that 75% of the students will stay with the option they chose in 2020-2021.
Projected 5-Year Enrollment for Rochester Public Schools
Overall, birth numbers in Olmsted County have been going down, but enrollment has gone up, meaning students not born here are moving into the District. These projection models are built with birth numbers as a starting point, and it gives the appearance that enrollment may be flat in the medium-term of 5 years.