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Enrollment lags at La Joya ISD

La Joya ISD started off the school year with enrollment down by about two and a half percent from last year, a gap that widened by a tad over the first few weeks of school despite efforts to close it.

In August, the district reported an enrollment of 23,713, down 621 students from the same time the previous year.

By September 15, the district saw enrollment go up to 24,002, although that was still 717 fewer than at the same time in 2022.

Texas school districts are largely funded through average daily attendance, which is reliant on enrollment.

A single student is usually worth thousands in funding annually.

It’s not clear what caused the decrease or what financial impact it could have, but it’s been enough to warrant a response from the district.

Earlier this month district administrators and staff went to neighborhoods in an effort to recruit students to the district; making 160 home visits on Sept. 16.

The district says those efforts will continue.

“I know we’re going to be bringing some of these students back,” Superintendent Heriberto “Beto” Gonzalez said in August.

Gonzalez said last month that he aimed to raise attendance by one percent across the board at the district, which would offset declines in enrollment from a funding perspective.

“And we know that if we do that together corporately at La Joya ISD, I know that our CFO and this board will be very happy with some of the gains that we will make,” Gonzalez said.

With that goal in mind, the district has rolled out initiatives like a weekly raffle for students with perfect attendance.

One of the prizes last week? A camping chair.

The district’s average daily attendance, however, dropped by a percentage point from August to September despite those efforts, to 93%.

Lower enrollment could spell trouble for La Joya ISD’s less populated campuses.

Last semester, the board backed off from a plan to close Leo J. Leo Elementary School and Rosendo Benavides Elementary School after significant pushback from the community.

Enrollment at both of those campuses had dipped.

The board’s decision to keep them open came with a catch: if they failed to boost enrollment to 410 students apiece and average daily attendance to 95%, the district could move toward closing them again.

At a board meeting last week, Board President Alex Cantu noted that enrollment has continued to decline at both campuses and remains short of that 410-student goal.

He said enrollment at Benavides was at 260, down by 28 students from last year. Leo was at 348, down by 23.

Cantu said those numbers are cause for concern for the administration, board and community.

“And with that being said, I also urge the parents to please help us out with student enrollment in these campuses,” he said. “I know that we had a lot of parents last year come to board meetings and express their concerns — pos it’s a little concerning right now. So we need to turn up the panic button a little more and make sure that we get to the numbers that we had agreed that would be a good number for our schools to continue.”

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