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District enrolls fewer students than expected; 10-day count at just under 80,000

By Staff | Sep 5, 2008

Ten-day enrollment numbers were released by the Lee County School District on Thursday. The 10-day count is a snapshot of enrollment numbers in the school district for the rest of the year, although the official count for the Florida Department of Education is 20 days.

So far in the 2008-2009 school year, the district enrolled 1,498 new students while they expected between 2,000 to 2,200 new students.

As of this week, the district is 2,000 students shy of the 80,000 full-time students anticipated.

“How much more it is going to bump, your guess is as good as mine,” said Joe Donzelli, district spokesperson. “We are hoping to bump up from 78,000 to 80,000 in the next couple of weeks but we just don’t know.”

Historically, the district had grown by an average of 2,000 students each year, but lost 1,600 students in the middle of the 2007-2008 school year — the first time it ever reported losing students. As a result the state had to take back some of the funding it set aside for the Lee County School District.

According to Donzelli, part of the district’s $29 million shortfall was a result of the state taking back FTE funding — full-time equivalent students funding — for the 1,600 students who left mid-year.

Each year the state offers the district a number of student enrollment formulas to determine funding. Donzelli said that district officials chose the more modest of these formulas for the budget process.

“They give us models to use when determining enrollment and those are inflated because we aren’t growing as we did two or three years ago,” said Donzelli.

He added that the district set aside funding to cover any FTE shortfalls.

Of the 1,498 students that have been enrolled so far, more than half are minority students. The district reported 1,113 enrolled minority students, and 639 enrolled in the free or reduced lunch program.

In the West Zone, a total of 26,136 students are enrolled in kindergarten to grade 12.

Gulf Elementary had 1,214 students enrolled, the largest student count of all the elementary schools in the West Zone.

Challenger Middle, which only opened its doors two years ago, enrolled 1,041 students so far.

Cape Coral High enrolled the most high school students over all others in the West Zone — 2,028 students, according to the 10-day count. Each of the high schools in the West Zone has a total capacity of approximately 2,000 students, yet Cape Coral High was only facility at full capacity.

Ida S. Baker High enrolled 1,919, the second highest of all the high schools in the Cape, but Island Coast High, the new school that recently opened in north Cape Coral, enrolled only 1,110 students.