Topeka USD 501 has 257-student drop in enrollment over 2016-17 school year

Topeka USD 501 principals were recognized during the board of education meeting on Thursday as part of October’s National Principals Month. (Angela Deines/The Capital-Journal)

There were 257 fewer students in Topeka Unified School District 501 as of Sept. 20, members of the board of education learned on Thursday.


Aaron Kipp, USD 501’s director of assessments and demographics, said the two main reasons enrollment is down from 14,044 students during the 2016-17 school year is there are fewer adults enrolled in the district’s virtual school and there are fewer kindergarten students enrolling in the district’s elementary schools.

“Kindergarten is the most difficult thing to project because of birth rates,” Kipp told board members.

Superintendent Tiffany Anderson said some surrounding districts have also seen decreases in the number of children enrolled in kindergarten.

“This may be a year where we just have fewer kindergarten students,” she said.

Board member Peg McCarthy said she would like to see several years of enrollment data in order to track where in the district the enrollment numbers are changing the most.

“I’m curious if there are any other trends we can spot,” she said. “It would be interesting to see if something is happening in our neighborhoods and schools.”

Kipp said there are about about 100 fewer adult students currently enrolled in USD 501’s virtual school than who were enrolled in the New Directions Learning Academy during the 2016-17 school year. He said the district is working on building up the number of adults enrolled in the virtual school after USD 501 discontinued the contract with New Directions earlier this year.

District officials have said during the planning of the new Avondale Academy — an alternative high school and middle school — the decision was made to operate a USD 501-run virtual school for adults seeking to obtain their diploma to allow for personal interaction between district staff and students. They also cited being able to track enrollment, whether the student completes a class and intervene to make sure a student completes his or her education.

Also on Thursday, Beryl New, USD 501’s certified personnel manager, presented board members with an update on the district’s equity council, of which there have been three meetings this school year.

New told board members a student-led equity council is also in the works, focusing on issues such as poverty, immigration, access to education, racism and civil rights. She said parents will also be involved in the district’s equity initiatives. Anderson added that college and career readiness is the foundation for the equity council’s discussions.

In other business Thursday, board members approved salaries for building principals and other administration staff, including members of the leadership team for the 2017-18 school year.

Members of the district’s leadership team include superintendent Tiffany Anderson who will be paid $216,950; Larry Robbins, $142,000; Lori Kopp, general counsel; Billie Zabokrtsky-Wallace $125,000 and Misty Kruger, communications director, $80,200.

Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or @AngelaDeines on Twitter.