Humboldt enrollment bucks trend

The Humboldt school district added 86 students this year, bucking trends of declining enrollment in Southeast Kansas.

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October 15, 2021 - 4:16 PM

Humboldt’s school district is growing.

That’s a bit different from other area districts, which have seen a decline in enrollment. It’s also a bit surprising in a county where the population has dropped 6.3% over the last decade. 

USD 258 has 627 students in kindergarten through 12th grade, an increase of 86 from last year (541) and the highest enrollment since 1995.

Superintendent of Schools Amber Wheeler believes several factors have contributed to the increase.

“Our community is growing. Businesses are adding jobs. New businesses are coming to town. Our school has a great reputation and we have quite a few out-of-district students,” she said.

Wheeler’s optimism about the school’s numbers don’t reflect the city’s actual count. The 2020 Census shows that Humboldt has a population of 1,847, down 106 (5.43%) from 2010.

The school district’s numbers show about 140 students attend Humboldt schools but live in a different district. 

And the total enrollment doesn’t include preschool. Wheeler noted Humboldt’s preschool program has reached 100% participation for all eligible youth. 

The growth seems to be spread out among all grade levels. 

But with increased enrollment comes a few challenges, Wheeler noted.

For example, the year started with 58 kindergarten students. That meant adding a third kindergarten teacher, keeping class sizes between 18 and 20 students. 

The freshman class is the largest at 64. The district didn’t have enough textbooks for so many freshmen, and had to buy more.

They also had to buy more computers and iPads to meet the one-on-one technology needs.

Still, Wheeler noted, it’s a good problem to have.

“I think that type of growth is good for our community, and it shows our community is healthy and growing,” she said.

The district had been considering a bond issue for facilities upgrades, but that was put on hold because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Wheeler expects the issue to come up again soon, likely at the next board meeting on Nov. 8.

SPEAKING of COVID-19, the Humboldt district currently does not have any active cases among students or staff.

The school board on Monday agreed to continue to follow the qualifications of a “Test to Stay and Learn” policy from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.

KDHE provides funding for nursing positions and testing supplies that allow students to remain in school if they agree to be tested regularly upon exposure to COVID-19, and if the result is negative.

The district has been following that policy, but the board’s action formalized its intent to abide by the state’s rules as they change over time. 

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