Enrollment is down by more than 100 students in the North Platte schools in the wake of layoffs at Bailey Yard, retail store closures and parents choosing to send their children to neighboring school systems.
The 2.5% decline is the second such decline in four years, Operations Director Stuart Simpson said. The most dramatic declines are at the high school (22 less), Buffalo elementary (24 less) and Osgood Elementary (37 less.)
Overall, it’s a small decrease. There are about 3,885 students this year in the school district. However, the decline could have a considerable impact on the amount of state aid that North Platte receives.
State aid calculations are months away and depend on what happens in the legislature, but enrollment is traditionally a key factor in calculating state aid.
Four years ago, the loss of 119 students in North Platte equated to $808,000 less in state aid.
Simpson said the district needs to make sure that low income families are taking advantage of programs such as reduced price and free lunches, because more low income students would boost state aid. He also said he talked with the Chamber of Commerce, advocating for efforts to boost the number and types of North Platte businesses.
At other points in the meeting, board members said there is talk that an election will be held to override the property tax levy limit. If the majority of voters approve an override, the district could levy more in taxes.
Board member JoAnn Lundgreen said a tax override election could improve safety at the schools. She said the entrances at Jefferson, Buffalo and the high school are too far from the main entrance, making it difficult to see who comes and goes from the buildings — a concern that Simpson also expressed.
The enrollments were only a topic of discussion at the meeting. In other business, the board voted on three things:
• Approved a new activities van.
Simpson said the van will add to the fleet and be another set of transportation for some smaller school activities. The van will hold 12 passengers. Bill Summers Ford Honda Nissan submitted the low bid of $24,000.
• Approved a new contract and inter-local agreement with the city for a police officer in the schools. The cost is $43,700. In addition, this year the schools will also pay any overtime hours that are incurred. Simpson said sometimes the officer is needed at 7 a.m. The board and administrators praised the work of Police Officer Jeremiah Johnson, whose work in the schools frequently exceeds expectations.
• Officially recognized the North Platte Education Association as the bargaining agent for the teachers in the 2021-22 school year. The NPEA does a good job of planning ahead, Simpson said.