UPDATE: WV SCHOOLS SEE HUGE 9,300 DROP IN ENROLLMENT - Keeping School Standards At Risk, Calhoun Suffers From Funding Formula Allocations, County's Biggest Enrollment Drop In 30 Years

By Bob Weaver

There are nearly 9,300 fewer students in West Virginia this school year than last and the decrease could cost the public education system nearly $43 million in state funding.

WV schools receive money based on the longtime School Funding Formula, a formula that has placed a number of low populated counties lacking in funds to support basic minimal services.

Calhoun, now with a low student population of 862 (2020), a near record loss of 101 students. Calhoun has continued to struggle to provide basic services with School Funding Formula allocations, with local school superintendents for years pleading with the state to create a bottom-line cash number to keep them going.

Calhoun Superintendent of Schools Kelli Whytsell says of those currently enrolled, related to the pandemic, 622 are attending school in-person and 239 at attending virtual classes.

Calhoun had 1,700 students enrolled 30 years ago.

Calhoun in 2020 had 61 students enrolled in 1st grade and 59 seniors in 12th grade.

WV schools are struggling to provide teachers.

Department of Education officials said they believe the decrease is pandemic-related but right now don’t have a clear picture on where all those students have gone.

Department of Education School Operations Officer Amy Willard said they projected an enrollment drop of nearly 3,500 students under normal circumstances because of declining birth rates and families exiting the state but no one could have predicted a pandemic-aided exodus of nearly three times the original projection.

“The hope that some of these students will come back next year when they felt safer once there’s a vaccine and COVID is under control,” Willard told the state school board.

The state said there’s a huge drop in enrollment in optional PreK programs, as much as 4,000 students. Board member Debra Sullivan said that’s the age when students need to be in school.

“Four-thousand of the very young children, when the children are the most vulnerable in their intellectual and social, emotional development–that’s a real issue,” Sullivan said.

Willard said based on the certified numbers, it would mean a decrease of roughly $42.7 million next fiscal year. Sullivan said she’s hopeful Gov. Jim Justice and leading lawmakers will consider freezing head count funding because of the pandemic.

Board member Tom Campbell, a former delegate and former chairman of the House Education Committee, said losing $42 million would mean a cut in 500 teaching positions and 300 school service personnel.

“That’s not going to encourage people to come here because there are going to be fewer positions,” Campbell said.

The department said of the overall enrollment, 47,960 students are receiving instruction at home through either county-based or state-based virtual programs.

Calhoun School Enrollment: Loss/Gain:

1991-1992 1700 +15

1992-1993 1689 -11

1993-1994 1705 +16

1994-1995 1671 -34

1995-1996 1633 -38

1996-1997 1589 -44

1997-1998 1558 -31

1998-1999 1476 -82

1999-2000 1430 -46

2000-2001 1318 -112

2001-2002 1289 -29

2002-2003 1283 -6

2003-2004 1216 -67

2004-2005 1187 -29

2005-2006 1180 -7

2006-2007 1153 -27

2007-2008 1151 -2

2008-2009 1126 -25

2009-2010 1104 -22

2010-2011 1122 +18

2011-2012 1137 +15

2012-2013 1083 -54

2013-2014 1069 -14

2014-2015 1066 -3

2015-2016 1055 -11

2016-2017 1051 -4

2017-2018 1028 -23

2018-2019 977 -51

2019-2020 963 -13

2020-2021 862 -101