ECISD board alarmed by findings in enrollment decline

EDINBURG — For the first time since the pandemic began, school leaders here are beginning to get a clearer picture of where 1,449 students who dropped off their radar in the spring have spent the 2020-21 school year — although that may not make it any easier to get hundreds of those students back in district classrooms.

Edinburg Consolidated Independent School District has faced a decrease in enrollment of about 4% for months, a decline that has triggered worries over funding and learning gap increases for the board.

Superintendent Mario Salinas said candidly earlier this year that he had no idea where those 1,400-odd students had gone, although he wanted to make finding them a priority.

A districtwide recruitment and enrollment plan that included home visits by district personnel launched last month, and while hundreds of students remain unaccounted for, what the initiative found as of the board’s Tuesday meeting openly alarmed trustees.

About 58% of the district’s 1,449 lost students reported they moved — 694 into another district, 94 out of state and 52 into Mexico.

Sandra Rodriguez, a parental involvement coordinator, said many of those students left because of the challenges presented by a particularly difficult year. Some had to leave because a parent lost their job and they had to move in with a family member or out of state. Others lost a parent and had to move to be with a family member or guardian. Some lost their home during Hurricane Hanna and moved after the storm.

Whatever their cause for leaving, trustees expressed concern about returning those students to ECISD.

“Most likely they’re not coming back,” Board President Mike Farias said, asking for a followup report detailing where those students had gone and why. “That total’s 840 students. That’s a very large number. Very large number.”

A smaller percentage of the district’s enrollment loss, a little fewer than 15%, seemed like easier targets for the district to re-recruit.

Out of those 208 students, 82 were reported as at home and not enrolled in school, 69 are being homeschooled by a parent, 45 are planning to enroll with ECISD, seven are enrolled with the district but not attending school and five are enrolled in daycare.

The fate of a little fewer than 28% of those 1,449 students remains ambiguous. The district had either not contacted those 401 students yet or they hadn’t been able to find any information on them.

Administrators assured the board that the district is doing what it can to boost enrollment numbers.

“We’re wanting our families back,” Rodriguez, the parental involvement coordinator said. “We’re making sure that they have all the resources necessary for them to be able to send their children to school.”

Even students who’ve left ECISD for other districts are still in play.

“Just because students are enrolled in another district doesn’t mean that we are not going to recruit,” Assistant Superintendent Eduardo Moreno said. “We can develop text campaigns, email, you know we have the students’ addresses, we have their phone number, email when they were enrolled with us. We can initiate a recruitment effort to be able to contact them and ask them to enroll in Edinburg CISD.”

Still, trustees asked for more insight into those enrollment numbers and at least one suggested the district should already prepare itself for a loss in enrollment-tied funding.

“We need to start facing the reality that our funding is going to go down,” Trustee Carmen Gonzalez said. “So when we plan for next year, let’s keep that in mind.”

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