Southwick regional superintendent ‘keeping an eye’ on homeschool and kindergarten enrollment

Westfield reports slight decline in total enrollment

SOUTHWICK – Although the Southwick-Tolland-Granville Regional School District has been open just over a week, Superintendent Jennifer Willard is already concerned about next year.

“I hate saying we have to start looking at next year already, but I want to give the school committee and community some numbers that are going to affect our FY22 budget,” Willard told the regional school committee last week.

Homeschooled students are on the rise, she said, while kindergarten enrollment is down.

“Our homeschooling numbers last year in FY20 were at 37,” she said. “This year, we are already at 71.”

Willard called it a “drastic increase,” adding that it does not affect the current budget.

“It will have an impact on our budget for the upcoming year and I want to make everybody aware of that,” Willard said.

Willard noted that the increase in homeschooling is not specific to the district during the coronavirus pandemic.

“This is a trend that is not unique to Southwick-Tolland-Granville,” she said. “It’s across the state. Our numbers are actually not as drastic as what you’re seeing in some communities.”

Westfield Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said Tuesday that Westfield has a total enrollment of 5,298, down 52 students overall from last year. He said there is a slight increase in homeschooled students and a slight decrease in kindergarten students.

Willard said kindergarten enrollment is down, from 94 students last year to 74 this year.

“Again, this is not unique to Southwick-Tolland-Granville,” she said. “Kindergarten can be fluid a little bit, but I want to make you aware that student enrollment will be dropping this year pretty significantly.”

Willard said she would “keep an eye on it” and report numbers more regularly to the committee than in the past.

Committee member Chelsea Berry asked if there was something they could do.

“I wonder if there is something we should advocate for as a committee or send a letter to the state about using last year’s numbers before they recalculate our money,” she said.

Willard said that would be nice, however, she does not think it would help.

“I have been on calls and they are still planning on using the Oct. 1 data, so that hasn’t changed,” Willard said. “But we are advocating as superintendents.”

Willard added that Department of Secondary and Elementary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley is also advocating at the state level on behalf of districts.

“We need to look at this year being unique and the impact it could have on next year,” said Willard.

A request for a projected financial impact was not provided by press time.

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