The Iowa Department of Education reported this week that enrollment is down this fall in Iowa schools. The statewide public-school attendance total of 483-thousand was down by 16-hundred-32. The agency’s Kathi Slaughter says schools that may need more desks or fewer lockers have to adapt to the changing numbers, but she says it’s not a crisis. For example, Slaughter says they lost 160 students in Davenport, but it’s such a big district and that loss is spread out over 12 grades, so the impact is diluted. Des Moines lost 266, but that’s still less than one-percent of their students. Slaughter says the schools will receive less funding, but the impact will be relatively small overall at each grade level. She says small schools that find their numbers falling don’t necessarily face consolidation with other neighboring districts. According to Slaughter, small districts, or declining enrollment, don’t always mean schools must merge or consolidate. But she says any school must be able to attract and keep good teachers, offer a full curriculum, and keep a safe school, so any school that finds it cannot do those things may have to consider solutions, including mergers or consolidations. If some areas continue to decline Slaughter says they’ll have to consider whether they can still offer quality education for their students’ needs. As you may recall, Governor Tom Vilsack has suggested the state offer incentives to schools to share services. Slaughter says some years the totals go down, some years they increase, and there’s no clear pattern to which area, metropolitan or rural, large or small, will gain or lose students in a given year.
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