District 51 fall enrollment down slightly

Non-traditional programs had some of the largest gains in student enrollment last fall in District 51, while high schools and a Fruita elementary school led the way for student losses, according to Colorado Department of Education data released this week.

Grande River Virtual Academy, the district’s 2-year-old online program; Independence Academy, a charter school; and the Mesa Valley Vision Home and Community Program, a homeschool program, recorded the three largest enrollment increases in District 51 in fall 2012. District 51 Executive Director of Support Services Melissa Callahan DeVita said the growth at Grande River and five-year-old Vision in particular may be linked to students who already live in the Grand Valley moving to those programs from other online and homeschool programs not affiliated with District 51.

“Even before we had online programming, kids were still interested in it, so they’d just go to districts where it was available. By bringing them back to our district, we can offer them more support,” DeVita said, referring to local classes and activities.

Twenty-three District 51 schools shed students year-over-year in 2012 while 19 added students. Scenic Elementary, once considered a potential top pick for closure due to its size, gained 30 students year-over-year, bringing its population to 262 students last fall. Meanwhile, Shelledy Elementary lost 10 percent of its population year-over-year, going from 610 kids in fall 2011 to 547 kids in fall 2012. Shelledy’s decrease is linked to kindergarten students without siblings at Shelledy who live south of Interstate 70 going to Loma Elementary instead of Shelledy this year, along with any students who volunteered for the boundary change.

Every high school, including R-5, lost students in 2012 compared to 2011 with the exception of Palisade High School, which added 11 students last fall. Central and Grand Junction high schools had the largest dips in enrollment, losing 86 and 84 students, respectively. DeVita said the declines were symptomatic of an overall decline in District 51’s population and Central and Grand Junction may have had the largest dips because the central portion of the district has experienced the least growth in recent years.

The district counted 21,730 students in October 2012, a loss of 187 students compared to the head count performed in October 2011.

Colorado school districts count students each fall in order to determine funding for each district. Accounting to the partial student status of kindergarten, preschool and part-time high school students, District 51 will re-adopt its 2012-13 budget as soon as Tuesday with a five-year average of the equivalent of 20,912.5 full-time students.

District 51 Budget Director Vi Crawford said the re-adopted budget will decrease technology and maintenance project funding to cover the nearly $8,600 that will be lost by adopting the new, final full-time count and to cover a decline in anticipated property taxes because of lowered property values and an unanticipated decrease in the state reimbursement rate for teacher education.


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