An incoming school board member recently talked about the budget cuts that the Hamilton Southeastern School district is looking to make due to a decrease in student enrollment this year. In a podcast by Larry Lannon the following comments caused me to do a little research:
“You’re [HSE is] the only ones that really lost your students, most everybody did not. I mean that they had some that went out of their schools when they went virtual….”
The statement states that most schools have not lost enrollments of kids, and if they did it wasn’t at the level that HSE lost student enrollments. The incoming board member went on to state:
“Unfortunately, we [HSE] were the one school that lost a lot of students and a lot of kids because we were not open… in person.”
In looking at the data, HSE is not the only school that has lost students. If you have been following mainstream media, then you’ve heard that most schools in Indiana and across the nation have lost students. Most of these are stated to be kindergarten students that are sitting out a year and will enroll when the pandemic issues are not as grave.
If you look at the data provided by the Indiana Department of Education (IDOT), you can create a more credible statement. The reality is that twenty-one of the top twenty-five largest schools in Indiana had decreases in students enrollments this year. In fact, the change in enrollment for the top 25 schools netted to a loss of roughly 10,000 students, or 2.70% of the enrollment. The overall loss was skewed high at 2.70% due to Indianapolis Public Schools losing over 10%. The average of the school losses for the top 25 schools was 2.25%.
Based on the public comment that was made, you might expect that the loss at HSE would be significantly higher than the 2.25% average. That assumption would also be incorrect in that HSE schools was lower than the average of the top 25 schools being that it was 1.91%. This was a drop in enrollment from 22,183 last year to 21,760 this year.
While HSE is higher than Carmel and Noblesville (which are also both in the top 25 largest districts), all lost a notable number of students. Carmel also dropped in enrollment by 1.61% and Noblesville by 1.47%.
It is believed that much of the loss is a result of kindergartners (and pre-K) being withheld. In reviewing the numbers for the top 25 largest schools, 49% of the enrollment difference were in Kindergarten/Pre-K enrollments. The numbers for the three Hamilton County schools are:
- Carmel: 47%
- HSE: 64%
- Noblesville: 76%
These percentages are based on differences from 2019-20 to 2020-21 enrollments. There are some fluctuations in enrollment every year, plus these numbers don’t take into consideration the growth that was happening. While many classes did continue to grow this year at HSE, most of the losses that were outside of the kindergarten level were in grades 2 through 5. The 7th grade class actually appears to have grown more this year than the prior year.
The point is, HSE is not alone in the issue of losing students this year. In looking at the data for the top 25 largest Indiana schools, HSE appears to be doing better than average. As such, it does not seem to be an accurate statement to say that the loss at HSE is unique compared to the other schools.
If you’d like to dig deeper into this, data on schools can be found on the Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) web site. This includes data on school enrollments.
# # #
Note that there are numerous factors impacting the schools. This was intended as a basic review to verify if HSE stood alone in student enrollment loss. This quick review of the IDOE data indicates it is not.