New data points illustrate socio-economic background of Summit School District students

Following the release of enrollment data that showed the Summit School District grew its student body this school year compared to last, district officials have followed-up with more statistics that give an updated picture of the socio-economic make-up of its students. 

Presented during a Feb. 16 Summit Board of Education meeting, officials said October 2022 data show both progress and remaining challenges for the district on topics such as graduating students who struggled through the pandemic and ensuring lower-income families are taking advantage of free and reduced meals. 

The snapshots of students come as the district sees a slight increase in enrollment for the 2022-2023 school year with 3,633 students — 13 more than last year. That growth has translated to a rise in per-pupil funding from the state government, according to Kara Drake, the district’s chief financial officer. 

“We have been growing,” Drake said. “We had the dip during 2021. That was the year after COVID when we were in hybrid learning and a lot of families chose to homeschool their kids, and then we bounced back from that in the following year.”

According to Drake, less than 1% of Summit County students are currently homeschooled.

The bulk of the growth, Drake said, has been concentrated in high school while earlier grades have seen smaller class sizes. Some of that, Drake said, is attributed to declining birth rates in Colorado which have especially shrunk preschool and kindergarten enrollments across the state. 

Over the coming years, Drake said she expects class sizes for older grades “to shrink down a little bit as these smaller classes move into their system.” But most of the district’s schools are still prepared to handle a growth in student size, Drake added. 

Graduation rates remain above the roughly 82% state average by about 6.5%, according to Drake. But the district did see a nearly 1% drop in its graduation rates compared to the year before. 

Doug Blake, assistant principal for Summit High School, said district officials are “still working with students who are credit deficient from COVID.”

“We are working really hard to support our students with various interventions,” he added.

Superintendent Tony Byrd said, “I don’t think we have any way of knowing” just yet what this spring’s graduation rate will look like as the district continues to try and close performance gaps that may have been widened by the pandemic. 

Additional data shows the most recent ethnic breakdown of the student body — which, according to Drake, is roughly 55% white, 39% Hispanic and nearly 5% students of a different ethnicity. 

Of those students, about 25% are learning or have learned English as a second language, according to Drake. Within that statistic, just below 3% are fully proficient in English while 11% are semi-proficient and another 11% are not proficient at all. 

The district also provided data on how many students are participating in the federally-funded free and reduced meals program. As of October, nearly 21% of students were receiving free meals and almost 14% were receiving reduced meals. 

“Last year that number was much lower, and that was a result of the federal programs,” Drake said in reference to the pandemic-related funding from Congress that allowed public schools across the country to subsidize meals for all students regardless of income. 

With that funding now expired, families will have to reapply for the program and meet a certain income threshold to receive support. Drake said the district has been reaching out to families to ensure they’re aware of the changes but acknowledged that some may not be enrolling or otherwise falling through the cracks for various reasons. 

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