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Gottlieb: RISD enrollment declines by more than 1,000

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The Roswell Independent School District’s enrollment is down more than 1,000 students from last year, and that could affect funding for next year, Superintendent Mike Gottlieb said.

Gottlieb offered that information as part of his report to the RISD school board at its meeting Thursday night.

That figure is based on the district’s 80th-day enrollment report from Dec. 1 sent to the Public Education Department. It includes students who have moved out of the district, enrolled in non-RISD virtual schools or are homeschooling, as well as former students the district has not had contact with at all during the fall semester, Gottlieb told the Roswell Daily Record.

“Within that, we have some that have moved to other states that are saying they’re coming back when New Mexico goes to in-person schooling. They’re staying with aunts, uncles, grandparents, older siblings,” he said.

There are also about 100 fewer special education students receiving service through RISD, he said.

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The uncertainty of if or when those students return will make planning for next year more difficult, especially in hiring staff, Gottlieb said.

The lower numbers could drop RISD’s funding by $4.5 million to $5 million.

“That’s about 72 positions within the school district of all types,” he said.

It’s a problem districts across the state are facing, as the PED has calculated more than 12,000 students are unaccounted for based on the 80th-day figures from the end of October, according to a PED press release last week.

Gottlieb told the board superintendents across the state are asking their state legislators for districts to be held harmless for those enrollment figures when deciding the fiscal 2022 budget in the upcoming legislative session and use enrollment figures from the 120th day of the 2019-20 school year, which falls on the second Wednesday in February.

“We would receive the same funding for next year, that would be the 2021-22 school year,” he said.

In other business at Thursday’s meeting, the board heard a first reading of several policy changes related to tobacco use. Raquel Mooring, campaign manager for Rescue Agency, gave a presentation on the proposed policy changes provided by Twenty-Four-Seven New Mexico, a project funded by the New Mexico Department of Health. Nine school districts participate in the program.

Rescue Agency is a public benefit corporation with offices in Albuquerque that works with government agencies and nonprofit organizations to create campaigns to change health behaviors, according to its website.

Mooring said RISD was the first school district to work to adopt the policy in 2017 but then replaced the Twenty-Four-Seven policy the following year. She and Gottlieb said that policy does not fit the state requirements on tobacco usage and vaping on school property, however.

“While I know most students are learning from home right now, these policies should still apply to virtual settings, and when campuses do reopen I’m confident that it’s the board’s desire to create the healthiest and safest environment for students to return to. I believe strengthening this tobacco policy is a step in that direction,” Mooring said.

Board member Mona Kirk said she recalled working with Rescue Agency in 2017 to bring that policy to the district and endorsed its return.

Since it was a first reading of the policy, no vote was taken.

The board also discussed an unrelated student wellness policy that was also on the agenda for a first reading. Staff members have been working to update the policy since last year, Jennifer Bolanos, student and family services coordinator, said.

The board also voted unanimously to accept a $25,000 grant to help 25 elementary school teachers and four middle school teachers receive training to create a computer science program for their schools. The teachers will receive stipends for completing courses and training through Code.org, a nonprofit organization that works to expand computer science offerings in schools.

The new computer science curriculum could be implemented in the next school year.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.