FCPS enrollment declines, leading to concerns over state funding and teaching positions

This article was published in Wakefield Weekly’s August 31, 2020 newsletter. Find out more and sign up for free using the button below.

FCPS enrollment declines: We reported last week that Wakefield Forest Elementary School has seen a decline in enrollment as some parents opt for homeschool or private school rather than FCPS virtual instruction. FCPS spokesperson Lucy Caldwell has since confirmed that this is a county-wide issue, which has led to concerns about whether the school system could lose state funding and individual schools could lose teaching positions.

“Enrollment is running behind where we were at the same time last year,” Caldwell said in an email. “Since state funding is based on enrollment, superintendents across Virginia are united in a request that the state use student enrollment data from last year (SY19-20) when calculating K-12 funding since the enrollment dip is expected to be temporary.”

The issue seems more pronounced at the elementary school level, at least in our immediate area. We reached out to the principals of Woodson High School, Annandale High School, and Frost Middle School—and all indicated that enrollment is tracking with or exceeding expectations, though there were still some concerns about funding and attendance.

At Frost, Principal Anthony Harris said the school “has not seen any drop in enrollment from previous years,” noting that Frost was “close to” its typical enrollment of 1,250.

At Woodson, enrollment is 40 students above projection and 100 students above last year, according to Principal Carlyn Floyd. “However,” Floyd said, “I am very sensitive to the ‘pandemic flight’ as I could have various families who have not yet withdrawn their students from Woodson which would significantly impact course offerings.” She added that if enrollment declines—and funding is affected—schools could face “hard decisions,” such as an increase in class sizes. “If all of these students who have left suddenly re-enroll next year, we will not automatically receive funding,” she explained. “In fact, that could be delayed as we plan for the next fiscal year almost a year in advance.”

At Annandale, enrollment is expected to rise to 2,222 this year and continue increasing to 2,308 by 2024, said Principal Shawn DeRose. Still, DeRose said, he’s concerned about attendance for virtual instruction. “Of our projected enrollment of 2,222, how many are going to get online and access the classes?” he said. “That’s the big mystery.” According to FCPS, students are considered no longer enrolled if they miss 15 consecutive days (excused or unexcused) during the membership verification process completed by principals each month, with the exception of absences attributed to Covid-19.

“I have three focuses as a building leader,” DeRose added. “I want to make sure our students have access to the technology—a laptop and internet. At the same time, we are working to ensure that the quality of instruction that we provide our students is at the highest level. And third, what are we doing about the kids who aren’t showing up? How are we contacting them, reaching them, to make sure that we are supporting them?”

Superintendent Scott Brabrand addressed attendance concerns in an email to parents on Friday, noting that students ages 5 to 18 are required by state law to attend school regularly. He asked parents to assist with this process by:

  • Ensuring students log in to classes on time and throughout the day

  • Calling or emailing the school attendance line if students are unable to participate

  • Communicating any concerns to the school, such as difficulty logging in or accessing classes

  • Reporting any hardship, such as student illness, or concern that might prevent the student from participating regularly

  • Returning phone calls or emails when notified that students did not participate that day

  • Ensuring that students submit activity logs as directed