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Waunakee schools see spike in enrollment, few opt for virtual learning

Published: Sep. 16, 2021 at 8:21 AM CDT
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WAUNAKEE, Wis. (WMTV) - Students are getting settled into their new classrooms in the Waunakee Community School District and the superintendent’s main goal is to keep them there.

Superintendent Randy Guttenberg said the district lost about 200 students for various reasons, including moving or choosing other educational options, but the district also gained 300 students.

The official enrollment count is expected on Friday, but Guttenberg said it is approximately 4,400 kids. That is nearly 100 more than the district had projected.

“We’re fortunate we live in a part of our state that has a lot of potential for growth and Waunakee is obviously as you drive around our community you see a lot of houses going up, houses for sale, and many of those are bringing in students to our district,” said Guttenberg.

The growth is good news, since enrollment numbers were down last year, and since funding is driven by enrollment trends. “Growth in our community is a positive sign for us to continue to sustain the programs that we value in our community,” said Guttenberg. The school board also approved about $800,000 in new positions this year.

“We’ve had staff members whose primary job was to intervene and to assist students and we just added a few more of those positions. We’ve also maintained some smaller class sizes in some strategic areas to make sure that we’re meeting the needs of our kids,” explained Guttenberg.

The number of students the district has classified as homeless has remained about the same as most years, which is right around 20 kids. Although the pandemic made it more difficult to identify and those kids, district social workers are dedicated to helping those students with their individual needs this year.

“We work with our social workers who work very closely with their families to support their needs. Their greatest needs are usually transportation and making sure we have means for them to get to school and making sure we can support them in the activities that they want to do so they can engage and have a great experience,” said Guttenberg.

Less than 1%, or about 40 students district-wide, opted for virtual-only learning. Keeping the in-person learners in their classrooms is a top priority for the district.

“We love having the kids here and we’re wanting to maintain them here and then that in itself I think is a positive for them educationally, social-emotionally and I think it’s great for us to work with our kids face-to-face,” told Guttenberg.

Masks are required inside all school buildings for students and staff and social distancing is enforced as much as possible. The district has assigned staff whose primary job is now to contact trace, with the help of school nurses and Public Health Madison and Dane County.

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