Shawnee Mission schools enrollment has grown by approximately 230 students this year to 27,577, according to figures compiled earlier this week.
Though district officials warn that the enrollment figures fluctuate daily as students leave and enter the district, Superintendent Jim Hinson told the Board of Education earlier this week that the numbers represented a second year in a row of growth. It’s the first time the district has seen consecutive years of growth since 1985-1986 — and a signal that the area may be experiencing the regreening demographers have predicted.
Among local elementary schools, Westwood View saw the biggest enrollment increase, with 22 students more than the previous school year — though the total student body is still under 300. Briarwood saw the biggest decrease, with a loss of 24 students — though it still has nearly 600 students on the books. Corinth is again the second largest elementary in northeast Johnson County behind Briarwood with 543 students.
Increasing enrollment figures could prove challenging for the district in the coming years as courts and legislature continue to battle over school funding. The formula that had been in place since 1992 before temporarily being replaced this past session by a block grant bill contained provisions that compensated districts for educating new students when their enrollment increased. The block grant bill provides no such assurances, so districts are stuck with the funding they have allocated even if they see more students enrolling. One elected official suggested this week that concerns about how the district will pay to educate new students may be a factor in the district’s hard questioning of TIF developments, including the proposed Meadowbrook park plan.
Shawnee Mission saw its peak enrollment a year after district unification in 1969 when it had 45,702 students on the books. Enrollment steadily declined in the following decades, falling below 30,000 for the first time in 2002. The district’s lowest enrollment year was 2013.