The report on enrollment released today by the Iowa Department of Education shows a decline in the number of public school students for the 13th straight year. Enrollment dropped by 2,279 students statewide in kindergarten through 12th grade. Department of Education director Judy Jeffrey says they expected the decline as it will be a few years before the state sees an increase in enrollment.

Jeffrey says they continue to see the enrollment growth in the rings that surround some of the largest metropolitan areas. For example, the suburbs surrounding Des Moines registered some of the largest growth, while some of the rural communities saw decreases. Two Des Moines suburbs, Waukee and Ankeny, saw the largest increase in students from 2005 through 2009.

Waukee gained just over 1,700 students and Ankeny just over 1,200. Cedar Rapids lost the most students in that period, 826, followed by Davenport, which lost 629 and the Des Moines district, which lost 595. Riceville and Seymore saw the largest percentage drop in students, each losing 28% of their kids between 2005 and 2009.

Jeffrey says the declines will continue to push smaller districts to look at dissolving. “We have more school districts I think than we’ve had in a decade or two who are really looking seriously at consolidation, whole grade sharing or even dissolving, because their numbers are dropping so rapidly. Of course in Iowa, our schools are financed on the numbers of students they educate, so as their students drop, so do their finances,” Jeffrey says.

On the other end of the spectrum, Jeffrey says schools with enrollment increases have been able to keep up with the growth. She says in most cases the public has been supportive of bond issues and they have been growing rapidly. Waukee and Ankeny are examples of schools building new buildings to keep up with the enrollment. While the larger schools have newer buildings and more resources for students, Jeffrey says that isn’t why parents are moving to those districts.

Jeffrey says people are moving to the metropolitan areas as there aren’t as many family farms anymore, and she says it’s a trend of people moving to where the jobs are. Enrollment in Iowa peaked in 1972-1973 at 645,000 students.

The full certified enrollment count report may be found on the Iowa Department of Education website here.