The Iowa Department of Education says enrollment figures show a statewide decline of 1,975 students over last year with 66% of Iowa’s 364 school districts reporting a decrease in enrollment. Department director, Judy Jeffrey, says the numbers are from the count taken on the first day of October.
Jeffrey says we’re now into a decade of a decade of decline in enrollment, which she says is indicative in what’s happening across the state in population shifts. The enrollment figures are used to figure how much state money each district will receive. Jeffrey says the declines are cause for concerns for some district.
Jeffrey says some of the smaller districts are continuing to lose students at a rapid rate, as they’re in sparsely populated areas of the state. As their enrollment declines, the loss of state money is having more of an impact on the school districts. The North Kossuth School District saw the largest loss of students — 17-percent — to drop its enrollment to 310. Clearfield and Luverne each lost 14-percent of their enrollment to drop to 89 and 78 overall.
Some of the larger cities also lost students, including Davenport, which dropped 255, and Ottumwa, which lost 197. Jeffrey says districts that are larger to begin with, may be able to absorb the losses better than the smaller districts. She says a one year decline sometimes doesn’t have as much a sting as a gradual decline.
Jeffrey says the problem is that you don’t lose all the students in one grade level, so you may lose students but can’t adjust to the loss by cutting staff. Jeffrey says there were 121 or 33-percent of the districts reporting an increase in enrollment.
Jeffrey says the increases were primarily in the metro areas around some of the largest school districts. She says the larger school districts in some metro areas experienced declines, such as Waterloo, Sioux City and Davenport, while schools in suburbs grew at a rapid rate. the Iowa City district grew the most with an increase of 450 students. The Des Moines suburbs of Waukee (up 413), Ankeny (up 348), Johnston(up 241) and Southeast Polk (up 250), all saw increases.
Jeffrey says the districts with big increases in enrollment face their own challenges. Jeffrey says their’s is keeping pace and educating students in adequate facilities with good class sizes. Jeffrey says there are distinct challenges with rapid growth and rapid decline. The total enrollment in Iowa’s public school districts is 480,609. To see the full enrollment report, check the Department of Education’s website .