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K-12 enrollment continues to grow statewide

Education

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Idaho’s K-12 public schools continue to add thousands of students every year, preliminary State Department of Education numbers show.

The latest statewide fall enrollment tally: 310,628 — up about 3,400 students, or about 1.1 percent, from a year earlier.

The change represents a consistent upward trend that’s added nearly 55,000 students to the state’s public schools since 2003.

Enrollment matters because it’s tied to how Idaho carves up about $2 billion in state K-12 funding. The state has used an average-daily-attendance metric since 1994. A legislative interim committee has spent three years studying the arcane formula and ways to replace it with an enrollment-based model.

The 2019 Legislature could take up the issue again.

Meanwhile, the latest numbers highlight where growth is — and isn’t — happening.

Notable changes

For the third straight year, a rural and remote Southeast district saw the most explosive growth.

The Oneida School District added 1,011 new student, a 42 percent increase from last year. By comparison, the state’s largest district, 40,291-student West Ada, added 784 kids.

Despite the increase, most of Oneida’s newcomers won’t walk its halls this school year. Rather, kids from across the state are flooding into the district’s online Idaho Home Learning Academy.

IHLA last year funneled 955 students to Oneida, a 66 percent increase. A year earlier, the district saw more than 30 percent growth.

Oneida Superintendent Rich Moore last year expressed shock at the growth but has defended the swelling program in the face of low test scores among online learners.

“(W)here might these students be without the resources we are providing for them?” Moore said.

Other enrollment hikes across the state reflect apparent shifts in enrollment.

Both the Payette and Fruitland districts saw declines of 163 and 93 students, respectively, from last fall. The declines stem in part from the opening of nearby Treasure Valley Classical Academy, which added 306 students.

Charter growth is another continuing theme. Charters make up just under 10 percent of all enrollment, yet they accounted for about half of the growth from last fall, adding around 1,700 kids.

The growth is part of a multimillion-dollar push, led by charter support group Bluum to expand access to Idaho charters.

“The state is adding a lot of families and children,” said Bluum CEO Terry Ryan, adding that Bluum is “working to strategically grow and expand charter schools, especially in the areas that are growing fast.”

Other changes

  • Treasure Valley districts Caldwell and Boise lost 269 and 175 students, respectively, from last year.
  • The Minidoka County School District added 577 new students.
  • The embattled Village Charter School lost 151 students, while Caldwell-based Elevate and Middleton’s Forge International each added over 250 kids.
  • East Idaho’s largest district, Bonneville, added 433.

Click here for a full rundown of the numbers.

Data analyst Randy Schrader contributed to this report. Schrader served on the founding board of Elevate Academy. 

Idaho Education News and Bluum are both funded by grants from the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation. 

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