Enrollment drops at LSC, WLCSC; officials blame pandemic

Enrollment is down this year at Lafayette and West Lafayette schools. That comes as Tippecanoe County schools welcomed a record number of students.

Posted: Oct 15, 2021 4:40 PM
Updated: Oct 15, 2021 6:23 PM

TIPPECANOE COUNTY, Ind. (WLFI) — Enrollment is down this year at Lafayette and West Lafayette schools. That comes as Tippecanoe County schools welcomed a record number of students.

But officials say TSC's continued growth during the pandemic is the exception, not the mean. Enrollment at public schools statewide is trending down and Lafayette and West Lafayette schools aren't immune.

"We think we'll bounce back," says Lafayette School Corp. Supt. Les Huddle. "Obviously the pandemic has caused us to take a hit and, again, hopefully when that slows down we'll be back on track."

TSC's enrollment grew 130 students, or about 0.9%, to 13,950. Lafayette School Corp.'s enrollment fell by 75 students, or about 1%, to 7,506, while West Lafayette Community School Corp.'s enrollment fell by 8 students, or about 0.4%, to 2,253.

That's based on statewide school counts last month.

"Our hope is that it's not something particular to the Lafayette School Corporation or to our community," Huddle says. 

It's not. Enrollment is down at public schools across the state, according to numbers provided by the Indiana Department of Education. 

What's at stake? The state pays schools thousands of dollars per student.

"Money is obviously a concern," Huddle says. "We're also concerned, are the students who aren't enrolled in our public schools or private schools, are they getting a quality education?"

As News 18 previously reported, many parents threatened to withdraw their children over contentious mask mandates. Did that pan out?

"Our sense is that it impacted our enrollment but not significantly," Huddle says.

Schools receive a fraction of money for students who were quarantined or learning virtually during count day. In Tippecanoe County, that amounts to roughly 70 students based on a complicated state formula.

It's a problem state legislators will fix during the upcoming session.

"So last year we had legislation that held the schools harmless ... if they're in person the majority of the time, they will be in-person students," says State Rep. Chris Campbell (D-District 26).

But what about several students who took a virtual option this year due to medical conditions? Huddle hopes the corporation is fully reimbursed.

"It's unfortunate that we're getting punished a little financially for providing academically for some of our students," he says.

A second statewide count day happens in February. State officials use numbers from both count days to adjust school funding.

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