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Shining Rock enrollment drops dramatically

Shining Rock enrollment drops dramatically

Back-to-school time is here again, and at Shining Rock Classical Academy — Haywood County’s only public charter school — it looks like students this year will have lots more room to grow. 

No, the school isn’t expanding, despite its second failed attempt to do so in as many years — Head of School Joshua Morgan told Shining Rock’s Board of Directors the night of Aug. 5 that first-day enrollment was just 304 students. 

Shining Rock officials didn’t respond to an email asking for prior year first-day enrollment totals, but the way charter schools are funded — with taxpayer money — could provide some clues. 

Each school year, Haywood County Commissioners make a bulk allotment of around $13 million to Haywood County Schools for what’s called “local current expense funding.” 

Each month, Shining Rock invoices Haywood County Schools, which must pay Shining Rock an equivalent per-pupil amount. 

According to figures provided by Haywood County Schools, when Shining Rock opened for the 2015-16 school year, that amount was $1,982.80 per pupil. Shining Rock started that school year with 233 students, but its final invoice that year was for 220 students, amounting to a yearly total of $453,286.

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That year, state school performance data shows Shining Rock earning an impressive score of 70, just above the Haywood County Schools score of 66.8, which ranked HCS among the top 10 percent of all 115 public school districts in the state. 

The next year, the 2016-17 school year, the sum allotted to each Haywood County student by commissioners grew to $2,022.15 per pupil. Shining Rock began the year invoicing with 350 students, but diminished to 326 by year’s end, for a total of $700,871.

State school performance from that year shows Shining Rock earning a score of 65, just below Haywood County Schools’ score of 68, which again placed HCS in the top 10 percent of all public school districts in the State of North Carolina. 

The year after that, the 2017-18 school year, the sum allotted to each Haywood County student by commissioners again grew, this time to $2,064.92 per pupil. Shining Rock began the year invoicing for 388 students and ended it by invoicing for 362, totaling $790,117 for the school year. 

That year, state school performance data shows that Shining Rock’s scores declined drastically to 56, well below the county average of 67.1 and just below the statewide average score of 58. 

For the 2018-19 school year, the sum allotted to each Haywood County student by commissioners got even larger, $2,107.11 per pupil. Shining Rock began the year invoicing for 387 students, and ended with 366, totaling $810,000 for the year. 

That year’s state school performance data won’t likely appear for a few more weeks, but the past three school years of declining performance at Shining Rock have cost Haywood County Schools more than $2.7 million in taxpayer funding over four school years.

By extrapolation, if Shining Rock’s enrollment remains as low as Morgan said it was, Shining Rock will likely see a $150,000 yearly decrease in revenue from HCS this school year. 

On the tenth day of the school year, the state “locks in” student enrollment numbers and pays HCS a one-time, per-student sum. In 2018, that sum was almost $5,500 per student. 

When new students walk in to the Haywood County Schools system on the 11th day, or any other day after that, the state doesn’t supply that money. Prior to this new school year, almost 50 Shining Rock students left the school after the 10th day, costing HCS more than $250,000.

Based on Shining Rock’s established attrition rate of 6.19 percent over those four school years, HCS could again see as many as 19 former Shining Rock students come knocking during the year, without the $100,000 in funding HCS would have received from commissioners had they enrolled in HCS prior to day 10. 

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