School District of Beloit 2023-2024 School Year Off to a Positive Start
17 Oct 2023
Beloit, Wisconsin, October 17, 2023 – Superintendent Dr. Willie E. Garrison II shared that the start of the 2023-2024 school year for the School District of Beloit and its students has been positive and full of upward trends. “With a continued focus on student academic achievement, our district has turned a corner and is making progress in many areas, as outlined in our strategic plan.”
Highlights include enrollment, reconfiguration, transportation, attendance, and an expected balanced budget.
For the first time in almost ten years, the School District of Beloit’s enrollment stayed just about par, with a slight dip over last year. “For the past several years, we have lost between 300-400 students yearly,” said Garrison. “This year, our district was able to stop that trend and report that our enrollment is slightly down with approximately 96 fewer students.” The School District of Beloit implemented an exit survey for families departing the district to collect feedback and data for future planning. Current student enrollment as of Friday, October 16, is 5,186 students.
“I believe our enrollment will trend upwards as we share with our community the positive news and outcomes in our district. Our district has much to offer our students, such as Dual Language Immersion, band and orchestra starting in 5th grade, a high school academy model, work-based learning opportunities, and unique and creative programming and curriculum.”
Reconfiguration for the start of the school year included the return of 4th and 5th grade students into elementary school buildings. Feedback from staff, students, and families has been positive. “It has been great to see our elementary schools filled with 4th and 5th grade students again,” Garrison stated. “We strongly believe, and research does support this belief, that having students from 4K through 5th grade learning in the same environment is vital for the long-term academic success and social and emotional well-being of students,” said Garrison.
Additionally, the district began the school year with two middle schools instead of four. Students from Cunningham transitioned to Fruzen, and students from McNeel transitioned to Aldrich. “Again, having our middle school buildings full of students and staff provides opportunities for growth and learning that was challenging in the model we had before,” said Garrison. “Middle School is such a critical time for learning. We wanted to ensure that our students receive the same curricular advantages, amenities, and extracurricular activities to provide a strong foundation for future success in high school.” Aldrich Middle School Principal Joe Vrydaghs agrees, “I see our students thriving and doing well as indicated by our attendance numbers; the engagement of our students and families in school; the increase in course offerings for our students; and by our student participation in athletics and extracurriculars.”
Transportation to and from school is outsourced to Durham School Services. Jenny Miller, Administrative Assistant to Business Services and Transportation Coordinator for the School District of Beloit, said that this was one of the smoothest starts to the school year she has experienced. “Even with an increase of approximately 500 more students requiring transportation over last year, this year has gone very well.” Miller attributed this success to the proactive communication and outreach to families before the start of the school year and Durham’s free app allowing families to track their student’s bus.
Nationally, school attendance is still not where it was prior to the pandemic. To address that issue, Beloit Memorial High School visited each and every student at home before the start of the school year to meet and greet with students, talk about the importance of attendance, and set expectations for the upcoming school year. “Going out to meet families and students where they are and welcoming them back to the school year seemed like a really great step to take towards building a sense of community and belonging," said Emily Pelz, Beloit Memorial High School Principal.
New for this school year is the development of an attendance work group. The Pupil Services Department created an attendance work group currently reviewing the district’s procedures to determine what changes, if any, need to be made to increase student attendance. “This work group understands the importance of attendance and removing challenges that might exist to daily student attendance,” said Melissa Beavers, Executive Director of Pupil Services.
“The School District of Beloit is committed to working with our students, families, and community to improve attendance and chronic absenteeism, as this ultimately affects the overall academic performance of our students,” said Theresa Morateck, Executive Director of Teaching, Learning, & Equity. “A child that misses two days of school per month leads to missing approximately an entire month of school. That is a lot of unfinished teaching and learning.”
At the recent budget hearing on the 2023-2024 preliminary budget, Robert Chady, Executive Director of Business Services, shared that he is confident that he will be able to present a balanced budget to the Board of Education at the end of October. “This practice has not been accomplished with regularity, though we aim to establish that as an expectation moving forward,” said Chady.
Garrison emphasized that this took a lot of hard work and focus on the part of the district and included many cost savings and reductions during the past year. “We looked at staff rightsizing, revisiting our vacant positions, reconfiguring our school district, reducing contracted services, renegotiating vendor contracts, and decreasing health insurance costs.” Garrison’s goals for the district continue to be student academic achievement, service at the highest level, and continuous improvement. He shared that this includes fiscal and operational accountability, oversight of our strategic plan, and engagement with school district staff, students, families, and the community.
About the School District of Beloit: First and Foremost, for Our Students. Graduates of the School District of Beloit are Career, College, and Community Ready! Our Portrait of a Graduate ensures our students are fearless learners, ambitious innovators, global contributors, resilient leaders, critical thinkers, and effective communicators. We are committed to excellence and diversity and prepare and inspire every student to succeed in life and contribute to an ever-changing world