We need our entire community to come together to help us register new and returning students for the 2021–22 school year. Please review this article for details and information about why this effort is so critical for our students and for details about the 2021–22 school year.
Create more stability for students, especially our youngest learners
While we finish the 2020–21 school year strong, we have our eyes on the critical challenge facing our families and students in 2021-22. Our students, families, teachers, and schools deserve consistency. Under-planning for new student enrollment will create issues with hiring qualified teachers, crowding classrooms and staff retention as we anticipate a more typical in-person learning experience.
We start actively recruiting and hiring teachers and school staff in the spring. This allows us to find high-quality candidates early. But right now, we are staffing based on conservative estimates on student enrollment after experiencing a decline during this current year impacted by COVID-19.
This means we could have more students than expected in August 2021 when we start the school year. This leads to hiring teachers in the fall instead of the spring or summer, teaching students in crowded classrooms to start the year, and moving students to new teachers after four–six weeks with a teacher. Our elementary teachers master building strong relationships with students on Day 1. Having widespread student transitions to new teachers will not be good for student learning.
Important Questions and Topics
What will 2021-22 school look like?
We anticipate the next school year will look different. We will continue to follow and collaborate with our local, state and federal health agencies for guidance on our protocols.
Based on information from our local health agencies, the COVID-19 vaccine is readily available for all adults and children ages 16 and up. They anticipate children ages 12 and up will be eligible to receive the vaccine as soon as late summer and early fall. We do not anticipate requiring anyone to get the vaccine.
Health Response Protocols
As more people get the vaccine, community positivity rates drop, and as our medical community learns more about treating patients with the virus, the CDC may loosen restrictions in turn allowing schools to return to a more normal state. We recently updated our COVID-19 Health Response Handbook to align with new CDC guidance on school operations.
If our local health departments continue to advise students and staff to wear masks, physically distance when possible, and quarantine when exhibiting symptoms or after coming into close contact with someone who tests positive for COVID-19, we will continue to do so. If the guidance changes from our public health experts, so will our protocols.
Virtual School Option
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) granted districts a one-year waiver to allow virtual learning during the 2020–21 school year. They have not extended that waiver for the 2021–22 school year. While we have publicly supported legislation to support local efforts to create virtual school options beyond the 2020–21 school year, we need the state to change its rules in order to consider a virtual option.
We believe the best opportunity for most students is to learn in-person with their teacher. Based on the guidance and rules set by TEA, we currently expect all students to be in-person for school next year. If the state of Texas changes the law to allow for widespread virtual learning and the demand exists from our families, we would explore those options.
High School Virtual Academy
We hosted an informational night for families and sent a form to students to gauge interest in a virtual academy offered through New Hope High School for ninth- and 10-grade students. We did not receive enough student interest to create the program in 2021–22. Students and families who indicated interest are being contacted by district personnel to determine ways to support student learning.
How does early registration help our budget, staffing, and planning?
Just like the entire state and nation, we experienced declining enrollment this school year. This is new for us as a fast-growth district. While our demographer estimated and we budgeted for 42,870 students (1,593 more than 2019–20), our current enrollment is 40,737. Being over-staffed has allowed our schools to more effectively manage the pandemic. But we anticipate dipping into the district’s fund balance to cover a budget deficit.
For the 2021–22 school year, we are budgeting for 41,749 students. Based on home sales, surveys with developers on new home builds, and other economic indicators, our demographer anticipates an enrollment of 43,951.
According to the Texas Fast Growth Schools Coalition and a statewide demographic update and a recent report by the Williamson County Appraisal District, our area is seeing record-breaking growth in new properties.
Enrollment Research Explained
Our demographer geocodes and maps our current student students to track student movement from year to year. They survey developers who are currently working on building new homes as well as developers in the planning stages for building to estimate the total number of new single-family and multi-family housing in a given area.
In their forecasting, demographers estimate how many students will be in a given neighborhood, setting a “per unit” student ratio. They base this on current students and similar neighborhoods or multi-family complexes, resetting those ratios as trends change.
The demographer uses census data and surveys private and charter schools to estimate how many kids live in our attendance zones, attend other schools, and could potentially attend other schools. While we have seen news of new charter and private schools in our area, we have not seen an increase in capacity of outside schools, meaning most students who did not attend Leander ISD schools in 2020–21 probably stayed home.
Our principals and school staff remained connected to families who stayed in the area but chose not to send their kids to our schools this year. Many intend on re-enrolling in the upcoming school year or they moved out of the area during the past 12 months.
Our attendance team has been calling families to remain connected and work to recapture students back into our schools.
School Staffing Formulas
We staff schools based on enrollment projections and defined student-teacher ratios and then monitor actual enrollment numbers throughout the summer. For example, we staff grades kindergarten to fourth grade at a ratio of 22 students to 1 teacher, so a school projected to have 110 first grade students has five first-grade teachers. But if 125 first-grade students enroll in school and we learn about that in the summer, we are able to add a teacher to accommodate the increase. If this increase doesn’t happen until after the school year starts, those classes increase to 25 students to 1 teacher until we can hire a new teacher. Under this scenario, we would move 15–22 students from their original teachers to a new teacher, which is tough on many kids.
Additional Resources & Materials
In addition to staffing resources, bus route allocations, portable buildings, and school budgets for supplies depend on enrollment numbers.
What is registration verification for returning students?
We moved registration to an online system in Summer 2019. With the move to online registration, we need all families to verify registration online through this link every year. Last year, registration verification occurred in July 2020, but we moved this process into April 2021 to plan for the 2021–22 school year.
If you have a current student, please log into the Home Access Center (HAC) where you will be prompted to complete the verification process. If you are a guardian and do not have a HAC account, please submit a dialogue using Let’s Talk. Please refer to the Registration website with any questions.