GUSTINE - Enrollment in the Gustine Unified School District has fallen well short of expectations.

After the typical enrollment ebbs and flows of the opening weeks of a new school year, district-wide enrollment has settled in at just over 1,800 students.

Dr. Bryan Ballenger, district superintendent, said the district had anticipated an enrollment of 1,840 students, comparable to last year’s ending numbers.

“That was a larger dip than I anticipated. The good thing is that we are budgeted on last year’s numbers, but we are going to have to look at things for (coming years) and change the positions and resources that go with those,” he commented.

Funding for the current school year is based on last year’s average daily attendance. Next year, the financial impacts of the 40-student decline will be felt in the district budget. Ballenger said the fiscal impact could potentially be upward of $500,000 annually in per-pupil funding.

Initial enrollment numbers indicated that the district may be closer to its anticipated 1,840 students than to the 1,802 who were on the rolls last week.

Enrollment at the end of the first week stood at 1,828 students - but in following weeks students were dropped from the rolls as it became evident they were not returning to GUSD.

The most evident indicator of an enrollment dip was at Romero School in Santa Nella, which this year has one kindergarten class rather than two.

“We had hoped that our numbers would increase over the summer and we would have enough for a second kindergarten class, but that just didn’t materialize,” said Ballenger.

He said 26 to 28 kindergarten students are enrolled at Romero.....a larger than ideal class size but not large enough to warrant a second section.

“The rest of the decline is just kind of scattered through the grade levels,” the superintendent said.

Not all grade levels are down in numbers.

A third-grade teacher was added to Gustine Elementary, adding a fourth section to bring down class sizes.

While the dip in enrollment is a concern, Ballenger said, it remains to be seen whether declining numbers are a one-time occurrence or a continuing trend - in which case the financial impacts to the district would be far more significant.