The number of homeschooled students in the Alpine School District has drastically spiked this year, according to data presented to the district’s governing board on Tuesday, Oct. 13.
The Alpine School District Board of Education reviewed the district’s enrollment information for this year during its bi-monthly public meeting. It will receive enrollment projection data next month.
According to projections made last year, the district had 81,532 students last year and expected 82,782 this year, which also put the district on track to have 86,290 students enrolled for the 2024-25 school year.
It had 64,486 students in 2009.
While there were 481 homeschooled students within the district’s boundaries last year, that number had jumped to 1,319 as of the end of August, according to information presented in the meeting.
The increase, likely due to COVID-19, has led to the return of face-to-face learning for some families and online learning for others. Students returning to physical schools are required to wear masks.
“Throughout the pandemic, the district should work on maintaining good relationships with homeschool families,” said Ada Wilson, a member of the board.
Many homeschool families may eventually return to district schools within the next few months.
The district’s enrollment projections have historically been off by about .5%. The formulas used to calculate projections will be adjusted this year, Jason Sundberg, the district’s assistant director of budgets, told the board.
“This year is going to change that quite a bit, and we are doing a lot of brainstorming on what is going to be the right philosophy for the projections for next year, and the next four years after that, to figure out what is going to happen,” Sundberg said.
Administrators study the number of births from five years prior, which predicts how many kindergarten students will enroll.
Overall, high schools had 764 more students than last year, up 265 from projections. Several large elementary schools saw decreases in enrollment this year.
The number of foreign exchange students also dived this year. There were three enrolled, as of Oct. 1, a dip from the typical 40.
Skyridge High School had about 3,000 students as of Oct. 1, and Lehi High School had about 1,700.
Lehi Junior High School had 1,360 students, and Willow Creek Junior High School had 2,126. There are another 750 ninth-grade students at Skyridge High School.
According to Scott Carlson, the board’s president, those enrollment numbers show that the district made the correct decision to build a middle school in northwest Lehi.
“There are a lot of students there, so I think that that was the right place,” Carlson said.
The yet-unnamed school will open in the fall of 2021.
Because the board decided to postpone placing a bond on the November ballot, it will likely be a handful of years before more schools are built in the quickly growing district.
Moving forward with projections, district administrators will have to decide if it would rather overestimate or underestimate how many students it will see.
Enrollment numbers impact how much funding the district receives from the state. “Those numbers not only impact operational funding but capital planning,” Rob Smith, an assistant superintendent for the district, told the board. Smith said that he and other district business administrators from across the state plan to meet and then bring recommendations for funding to the state legislature.
Carlson said he’s heard parents’ questions about how long it will be until the district returns to its pre-pandemic normal. He said families wonder if they’ll be able to handle the changes for a month or six. “If it continues for a year,” Carlson said, “it could be more than some families can handle.”