Corpus Christi ISD saw an increase in enrollment compared to last year by 1,902 students.
But the school district has about 1,500 fewer students than in the 2018-19 school year, and staff is working to continue the trend of growing enrollment, said Delma Bernal, director of admissions, attendance and student support service.
During the board of trustees meeting Monday, Bernal shared a report on the district’s current enrollment and attendance for the first and second six-week periods of the 2021-22 school year.
Texas schools receive state funding based in part on student attendance. Districts lose funding if students are absent or withdraw.
Enrollment trends and goals
The district is aiming to return to the 2018-19 enrollment of 34,674. The current enrollment is 33,171.
For the past three school years, CCISD has experienced a decrease in enrollment. Bernal said contributing factors include parents seeking other in-person or virtual school options at private or charter schools or through home schooling, children staying home due to COVID illness or contact, and refinery jobs that have left the area.
Bernal said 1,206 students have withdrawn from CCISD the current school year.
One hundred thirty-five students opted to be home-schooled, 351 enrolled in other Texas districts, 30 joined private schools in and outside of Texas, seven students withdrew to obtain a GED, and 683 students did not show up this school year or withdrew from the district and did not share where they were going.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, enrollment dropped by 1.5 million students, which is roughly 3% nationwide, Bernal said.
“In addition, Texas saw a 2.22% enrollment decline,” Bernal said. “Our district is just below that state average at 1.04% enrollment decline from 2018-2019 school year.”
Bernal said although CCISD offered a “safe and clean learning environment,” some families were not comfortable sending their children to school. She said enrollment was not as high as the district would like because the option for 5- through 11-year old vaccinations were not available at the start of the school year.
Bernal said now that students ages 5 through 11 are eligible for COVID-19 vaccinations, the district expects an increase of 300 students in the weeks to come.
Bernal said to increase enrollment, the district must be competitive in its recruitment strategies.
She said CCISD has reached out to families of students who have withdrawn on a weekly basis, sent mailouts to invite families to join the district, conducted home visits to share resources the district has to offer, held a KEYS Walk with help from volunteers at the beginning of the school year and conducted exit interviews to document where each departing student will be going.
Attendance on the climb
The current school year also started with a low attendance average, 89.95%, compared to the last three years, Bernal said.
“The start of the year was concerning to many families as we had many students who were out of school due to the spread of COVID-19, either with the illness or students who were in close contact,” she said.
“Although we did implement the remote conferencing, many students opted to not attend and completed their work on Canvas. This was an issue across the state and across this great nation.”
At 90.95%, attendance is on an upward trend, Bernal said.
“Our district goal is to improve our attendance average to 95%,” Bernal said.
To help keep attendance increasing, Bernal said the district ran a “September Awareness” campaign and “Dressing for Success” Wednesdays.
The former included a daily attendance target banner for each campus to bring focus and attention to the campuses for the district’s goal. The dress-up days give students an opportunity showcase their interests by wearing college- or career-related T-shirts to reflect their future goals.
“Wednesdays were noted as a low attendance day, so it was a day that was targeted to increase attendance,” Bernal said. “We are optimistic that with the efforts set forth and presented today, the next administrative report will reflect gains in the areas of enrollment and attendance.”
‘They will have a harder life’
Trustee John Longoria asked Bernal if some virtual-learning students last school year did not log in at all and if that affected attendance rates.
Bernal said yes, and that with online learning, in order for the district to take attendance, students have to be interacting. If they did not log in, students were counted absent.
Longoria said he doesn’t understand why parents will not enroll their students into school. He said he sees parents with kids at grocery stores or shopping centers who tell him they don’t want their children to go back to school for fear of them getting sick.
“I don’t think parents realize that if their child misses a year of school, they will have a harder life than they are having by missing a year of school and the setbacks they will face,” Longoria said. “I don’t know how you get those parents to understand that not logging in or not showing up for a year of school is really detrimental to those students.”
Bernal agreed and said the district’s focus are the elementary schools because “that’s the foundation of their education.”
Reorganization of board
Board members also voted to select a new president, vice president, secretary and assistant secretary for the district. Janie Bell and S. Jamie Arredondo will continue to serve as president and vice president, respectively. Don Clark was named secretary and Alice Upshaw-Hawkins the assistant secretary.
Additionally, Tony Diaz announced his resignation in October after serving on the board since 2008. Monday’s meeting included presenting Diaz with a plaque and a board resolution honoring his service.
Bell said the application for the vacant District 3 seat will be on the district’s website Monday, Dec. 13. The deadline to apply is 4:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 3, 2022.
The term will extend until November 2022, at which time a regularly scheduled board election will be held. The goal is to have the new trustee sworn in by the Jan. 24, 2022, board meeting, Bell said.
John Oliva covers education and community news in South Texas. Consider supporting local journalism with a subscription to the Caller-Times.