Muncie schools losing up to hundreds of students while neighboring districts see enrollment increases

MUNCIE, Ind.-- School districts across Indiana sorted through their enrollment numbers to turn in to the state Friday, though they are not finalized yet.

While the numbers were good news for some districts, the emergency manager for Muncie Community Schools said the district is looking at a loss of up to hundreds of students, which could mean less funding.

The district is already facing a multi-million dollar deficit.

The district said its raw count of students, which they have two weeks to work out with other districts, is at nearly 5,200 students. In February 2017, the district counted more than 5,550 students. Stephen Edwards, the emergency manager for the district and part of the emergency management team from Administrator Assistance, said the school district is looking at losing anywhere from 400 to 500 students, though everything is still fluid.

"It's probably not unique to Muncie, a loss to Muncie may be a little greater, however, because there's so much uncertainty here around where we will be financially, can we keep programs going, what will be the final extent of the cuts the district will have to make to live within its budget," Edwards said.

The district receives money for each student. Edwards said a loss of 500 students could cost the district more than $280,000 a month.

"Our concern is obviously is we're trying to work and help this district achieve financial stability, that would be a setback, however we're feeling pretty good right now that the cuts that the district has made looks like it's gonna impact our overall outlook pretty good. So we're pretty positive, obviously we're concerned about that loss," he said.

But while Muncie schools may be losing students, neighboring districts said they're gaining more.

Cowan Community School Corporation said its enrollment is expected to be 820 students, up by 24 students compared to last year.

Liberty Perry Community Schools said its enrollment is up by 20 students.

Yorktown Community Schools said it had its highest enrollment since 1979, seeing an increase of 45 students.

"Count day was good news for us, our enrollment is at 2,593," superintendent Dr. Greg Hinshaw said.

Hinshaw said the majority of the district's growth is from in the district. Transfer students increased by 11 students. He said of the more than 400 total transfer students, though, most live in the Muncie district.

"I think there are a lot of good things that go on in Muncie but we also respect the fact that the legislature has given districts the freedom to accept students from outside and people have chosen to come to Yorktown, so that's something that has a lot of good things attached to it for the people here," Hinshaw said.

Delaware Community School Corporation said last year it too had MCS students in its district. It said of its 265 students living outside district boundaries, more than 160 were MCS students.

"I'm certainly disheartened because every student that walks out of here has an impact on the  program and the other thing, I think the Muncie schools has an excellent academic record for a small urban district. Muncie schools has many programs that benefit students," Edwards said.

It's important to note, the enrollment numbers won't be completely finalized and compiled, though, until at least next week.

As for the district's finances, while the emergency management team initially said the district could run out of money by the fall, Edwards said it may not be until December. Right now, he said they're working with local lenders to try to get short term loans, which they think will happen. Edwards said if that happens, the district would be okay the rest of the year. He said in the worst case scenario, the district would have to not pay some bills but would keep doors open and payroll completed.

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