Enrollment down on first day in District 51

Enrollment was down 445 students on the first day of school Monday in School District 51 compared to the first day of school the previous year.

The preliminary count of 18,766 students is well below the 160 students the district predicted would be subtracted from local public schools this fall, mainly because district charter school Independence Academy is not starting school until this coming Monday. That school had 297 students on the first day of school last school year. If enrollment were the same this year and the academy started school Aug. 12, the deficit between the first day of school 2013 and the first day of school 2012 would be 148 students.

The district started the 2012 school year with 19,211 students and began the 2011 school year with 19,412 students.

The first day of school is not a firm indicator of 2013-14 enrollment, according to District 51 spokeswoman Christy McGee. The count does not include most kindergartners because many are out of class and in skills testing during the first few days of school. R-5 High students also are absent from the first day counts from 2012 and 2013 because staff at the alternative school had an extra, grant-funded teacher training day on Monday and on the first day of the 2012 school year.

The first day every year has a small number of students missing due to late summer vacations and some parents, either new to the valley or not, not knowing when school begins, according to district executives. Some parents may have set vacations before they knew the school calendar would start a week earlier in 2013 than last year, but District 51 Chief Academic Officer Bill Larsen said migration out of the community is a more likely explanation for having fewer students this year.

“We’re budgeted to be down 160 students and we’re still below that,” he said.

District 51 Executive Director of Academic Achievement for Elementary Schools Lesley Rose said having fewer students district-wide has not protected all students from having some crowded grades or classrooms.

“We have some hot spots” for enrollment, she said, adding the district will figure out over the next few days and weeks how to address enrollment fluctuations in affected schools.

The district will not rely on any enrollment numbers until an official head count is taken near the first of October, when students have had time to settle in, McGee said. District 51 enrollment as measured by the October count decreased year-over-year in 2011 and 2012 and is expected to decrease again in 2013. The district had 361 fewer students in October 2012 than it had in October 2010, according to the Colorado Department of Education.


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