MATT RESNICK

HUMBOLDT — An attendance increase of 86 students from the previous school year is a welcome surprise for USD 258 officials. 

Humboldt’s robust enrollment numbers are in stark contrast to USD 413’s enrollment figures, as Chanute Public Schools registered its lowest headcount in a decade with a K-12 student population of 1,804, compared to 1,822 for the 2020-21 school year.

Additionally, USD 413 was off on its projected weighted full-time equivalency (FTE) by a margin of 103 students. Humboldt, meanwhile, underestimated its weighted FTE. 

USD 413 Superintendent Kellen Adams recently told The Tribune that he was unsure where their former students went, and that it’s something the district may need to address via future recruiting efforts. 

First-year Humboldt Superintendent Amber Wheeler said she did not have data available on how many of the district’s K-12 students were transfers from USD 413. Humboldt’s enrollment breakdown districtwide as of Sept. 20 was 284 elementary school students, 188 at the high school, and 155 middle school students. 

Separate from the K-12 headcount of 627, USD 258 also offers a virtual learning program, with 205 high school students currently enrolled. In addition, an unspecified number of adult students are enrolled. 

“We do accept out-of-district students,” Wheeler said of the virtual program. “So it’s probable that some came from (USD 413). We have students from lots of different places that will enroll for a variety of reasons.”

Wheeler said the virtual program is the most fluid of any of the district’s enrollment numbers. 

“We have kids entering and graduating from that program at any given time,” she said, noting that the state draws a distinction between virtual and remote learning. 

USD 258’s enrollment numbers were down last year, checking in at 541, which Wheeler indicated may have been a result of a pandemic downturn. Wheeler anticipated an enrollment rebound for the current school year, and budgeted for an increase of 44 students. 

“We were down about 40 last year,” she said. “So 585 is kind of what we were projecting. So we’re even up if you look at pre-COVID levels.”

Wheeler noted that the attendance spike is a direct reflection of Humboldt’s budding community.

“You take a look just around town, we have new businesses starting — and the businesses we have are growing,” she said. “We have a growing community, and we’re seeing that reflected in our schools.”

USD 413’s decrease in enrollment seems to be a statewide issue. As reported by the Kansas City Star on Tuesday, dwindling enrollment will likely force the closure and consolidation of some schools in the city. 

“As more students have left for charter schools and suburban districts, KCPS is operating several schools that are significantly under capacity and unable to offer all of the extracurriculars, athletics and support services that others with full enrollment do,” Superintendent Mark Bedell told The Star.

 

Dual sports program 

A dual sports program for Humboldt students was approved by a 6-1 margin during USD 258’s regular monthly Board of Education meeting Monday night. 

Implementation of the pilot program will be on a trial basis beginning this spring. It includes baseball, softball, track and golf, and will be reassessed at the conclusion of the spring sports campaign. USD 258 students are currently prohibited from competing in more than one athletic activity per semester.

“This will be an opportunity for a kid to participate in two sports going on at the same time,” Wheeler said. “We have some kids who would like to try multiple things, and this gives them the chance to do that.”

Wheeler noted that safeguards are in place to ensure that students competing in multiple sports will be able to also keep pace with their coursework. One such requirement is that students in the program must maintain a GPA of at least 3.5. 

“That was actually a recommendation from a student,” Wheeler said. “He presented to us last month.”

Other qualifiers for the program include a declaration by the student of a primary and secondary sport, as well as having a dialogue with those coaches prior to that decision.

Another sports-related agenda item was student Emma B’Hymer’s request to join the Fort Scott High School swim team for the upcoming winter sports season. An agreement between the schools was unanimously approved.

It was noted during the meeting that B’Hymer is familiar with Fort Scott swim coaches, as well as some members from the team. Fort Scott also has the required facilities to make the move possible. B’Hymer will be a member of the Fort Scott swim team during the regular season, but will represent Humboldt High School for postseason events. In addition, B’Hymer’s parents are planning to transport her to and from Fort Scott for practices and competition.

The board also unanimously approved a request by the school’s journalism class to attend a modified version of the national convention, to be held in Kansas City, Missouri, Nov. 11-14. The board had previously approved a request for those students to attend the national convention on the same dates in Philadelphia. That event was ultimately switched to an online platform. Students requesting permission to attend were Brooklyn Ellis, Peyten Galloway, Abby Rinehart and Madi White. 

Funding for the trip has already been completed through efforts by the four students, as well as the help from a pair of sponsors. 

 

In personnel, the board unanimously approved the following hires: 

• Shelli Murrow, part-time bus driver for the 2021-22 school year, at a pay rate of $16.05 per hour.

• Cari Gray, part-time bus driver for the 2021-22 school, $16.05/hour.

• LiFen Willey, part-time cook for the 2021-22 school year, $10/hour.

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