Sarasota County School District has enrolled almost 500 fewer students thus far than expected

Enrollment higher overall for middle and high schools, but lower thus far for elementary grades and charter schools

Al Weidner addresses the School Board. File photo
Al Weidner addresses the School Board. File photo

Almost exactly a year ago, Sarasota County School Board members were voicing surprise at unexpected enrollment growth at a couple of the district’s regular high schools.

The staff projection for the 2015-16 school year had called for 10,665 students. The five-day count — the first staff undertakes each year — showed 10,857 in class, an increase of 192.

This year, on the fifth day, high school staff counted 10,819 students — only 35 more than the projection of 10,784. The total of those in class had climbed gradually, however, since the district began the 2016-17 school year on Aug. 22. The first day, 10,180 high school students enrolled, data show.

Altogether, at the end of the first five days, district staff reported 481 fewer students than projected: 42,456, compared to the estimate of 42,937 for the opening day, according to the data.

As for the high schools: Sarasota, Riverview and Booker all had more students enrolled at the end of five days than they had anticipated. At Sarasota High, the number was 52; at Riverview, 37; and at Booker, 21. North Port High was down 33 students compared to the projection of 2,365, while Venice High had 31 fewer than the 2,115 it was expecting, the figures show.

Riverview, which is located on Lords Avenue in Sarasota, is the largest high school by enrollment in the Sarasota district. At the end of the five-day count, its students numbered 2,526.

Regarding the middle schools: Overall enrollment at the end of the first five days was 49 higher than projected, for a total of 5,901. Conversely, the elementary schools had a deficit of 107 compared to the projection. Altogether, elementary school staff members counted 15,622 students. The biggest difference between estimate and reality so far has occurred at Alta Vista in Sarasota. Its five-day count stood at 652, with 83 fewer students than teachers and faculty had planned to greet.

On the other hand, Tuttle and Wilkinson — both also in Sarasota — counted 30 more students each than expected. The enrollment at Tuttle at the end of five days was 738; at Wilkinson, 459.

As for charter schools in the district: The total student count at the end of five days was 6,572, with 298 fewer enrolled than the 6,870 expected.

Al Weidner, the district’s deputy chief financial officer, explained to The Sarasota News Leader this week that he uses the student counts recorded in October as he begins to craft the next fiscal year budget. The School Board typically starts financial discussions in October, giving itself about 11 months to complete the decision making necessary to approving the budget the following September.

This will be the Weidner’s last budget for the district. Employed with the Sarasota County Schools since 1982, Weidner will be retiring in 2017.