NEW MEXICO (KRQE) – Some New Mexico school districts are bracing for possible budget cuts next year because they’re seeing fewer students in the classroom. The state’s Public Education Department says statewide, public schools saw a 4% drop in enrollment last year. While the PED says statewide, enrollment this year is equal to last, at least two of the state’s biggest districts said they’re still losing students.

Story continues below:

Santa Fe Public Schools Superintendent Hilario Larry Chavez is keeping a close eye on the district’s latest enrollment numbers. “This could be an indicator of what could come down the line during the next two reporting periods,” he said.

The district is seeing fewer students. “It’s roughly 250 students that we lost from the end of last school year to the beginning of this school year,” said Chavez.

If the number holds steady, the district could also lose about $1 million in state funding. “It’s scary,” said Chavez. He said students are leaving for a number of reasons like moving cities or states and moving into remote schooling or homeschooling.

It all comes after the district already dealt with a blow to its funding this year. In the 2020-2021 school year, the district lost 615 students and about $2.9 million in funding. Chavez said they had to get creative to keep the district operating as usual.

“Looking at contracts, looking at vacancies looking at consolidating some positions, taking on new responsibilities at the district. So, there’s a lot of different ways that we were able to come up with a balanced budget,” said Chavez.

The state’s largest district, Albuquerque Public Schools, is also seeing a decline in students. According to its dashboard, enrollment is down about 1,150 students from last year. According to meeting records, it’s about 600 fewer students than they’d like. A spokesperson with the district said it will have a financial impact but just how much is hard to say at this point.

Districts have a few more reporting periods to the state that will determine funding. Chavez is hoping students come back before then. “We have an 86 % graduate rate…our educational ecosystem is healthy, it’s striving, and we’re continuing to work together and move forward,” he said.

He said the district is seeing most of its student loss in grades K-8. The district is trying to bring students back by promoting its graduation rate, what the district has to offer, and by promoting its K-12 online school.

KRQE also reached out to Rio Rancho Public Schools which said it has seen growth in its enrollment this year.