TUSD superintendent Gabriel Trujillo

TUSD Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo attributes the slowdown in enrollment loss to a number of achievements.

Tucson Unified School District’s enrollment decline is drastically slowing, based on the district’s 40th-day enrollment count.

“I am very proud of the continued dedication by our staff and community,” Superintendent Gabriel Trujillo said in a statement. “The hard work that is done every day is showing, and I am proud to be able to say that for the 2019-2020 school year more families than ever are choosing Tucson Unified schools.”

The total enrollment loss as of Sept. 27 compared to last year was 169 students, setting the district at 44,309 students. The previous year, the district had lost 1,418 students by this point.

The enrollment count on the 40th day is important because it helps determine federal funding for programs such as Free and Reduced Lunch and Title 1, which gives schools with large concentrations of low-income students supplemental funds.

Over the last five years, the enrollment loss was about 1,100 to 1,300 students each year, Trujillo said, and the district has to build its budget for the following year around the worst- case scenario.

With more students comes more funding, which Trujillo says puts the district in a “radically different situation.” With more funding, the district can plan for things like additional security, extra custodial support and more counselors, Trujillo said in an interview after the 10-day enrollment count.

Trujillo attributes the slow-down in enrollment loss to a number of achievements, including a better academic product and performance, better marketing, special programs and opportunities at neighborhood schools, new online open-enrollment, an enrollment task force and keeping schools open during the summer break so families could walk in and enroll.

Kindergarten grew for the first time in a decade. The grade that saw the greatest increase was ninth with 196 additional students. Six grades saw declines this year, with the top loss in fourth grade at 263 students.

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And a number of schools that weren’t previously favorites grew substantially, including Roberts-Naylor K-8 School, Alice Vail Middle School, Rincon High School, Pueblo High School and Ochoa Community School, Trujillo said. Schools that are the most popular tend to be in the west, southwest and university corridor.

The schools that are struggling the most with enrollment are largely on the east side, especially middle schools.

Enrollment tends to peak on the 40th day. The next key day for an enrollment count is the 100th day, on Jan. 27, 2020. The enrollment on that day determines state funding given to the district for the following year.

Contact reporter Danyelle Khmara at dkhmara@tucson.com or 573-4223. On Twitter: @DanyelleKhmara

Reporter

Danyelle joined the Star in 2018 and covers K-12 education. Previously, Danyelle wrote for the Tucson Weekly where she won several statewide awards including story of the year and first place investigative reporting.