Rochester Public Schools has had a slight increase in enrollment over last year, although it is still below its pre-pandemic numbers.

Jacque Peterson, director of elementary and secondary education, gave a brief presentation on the topic during Tuesday's School Board meeting.

"The good news is that we are up in our enrollment projection compared to what we thought we would be," he said.

School districts use Oct. 1 as a benchmark for their enrollment numbers. According to that day, Rochester Public Schools has 17,800 students.

That's 57 students more than the district projected it would have for the year. It's also 165 students more than what the district had last year, representing a 0.9% increase in enrollment.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Not all of RPS' students are attending in person. This year, the district established an online option, allowing students to take classes remotely. According to Peterson, there are roughly 500 students enrolled in the district's online option.

Although the district's enrollment is up from last year, it is still below the enrollment it had prior to the pandemic. In fall 2019, Rochester Public Schools had 18,296 students. That number fell by 661 the next year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as families began reconsidering their children's educational options.

According to a presentation in February, RPS Finance Director John Carlson reported that 46% of the students who left during the pandemic did so because they moved out of the area, 13% enrolled in private schools, 13% transitioned to home-schooling, 8% enrolled in an online school, and 6% open-enrolled in other nearby districts.

In addition to the actual decrease in the number of students, 2020's enrollment was more than 800 students lower than what the district had been projecting. School districts rely on enrollment projections in order to prepare their budgets. Normally, the school district's projections are within 1% of the actual enrollment numbers, according to Carlson.

School districts receive funding based on how many students they have.

Prior to the 2021-22 school year, Carlson said he expected roughly 25% of the students who left during the pandemic to return.