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Board of Education report shows lower enrollment for Niwot schools


December 18, 2019

Data Source: SVVSD Oct. 2019 Enrollment Report

Ethnic Breakdown of Niwot Feeder System Students, by School, October 2019

Every year starting in August, school districts across the state start analyzing enrollment numbers and other demographic data from their students. They track things such as building activity, socioeconomic trends, and more.

This wealth of data then allows the planning department create projections in the spring. These projections, which largely focus around how many students are anticipated to be in various school feeder systems, will affect decisions such as open enrollment quotas. Paula Peairs, the board's vice president, said, "This is incredibly valuable, as we look at it as a board, in a more future-thinking [way, like] looking at capacity...but even in more the day-to-day, in the shorter-term work, [such as] looking at what's going on in each school."

Scott Toillion, the planning director for the St. Vrain Valley School District (SVVSD), was proud to announce not only that the actual count of students enrolled in the 2019-2020 school year was close to projections, and that Colorado has not met their projections for enrollment and is, in general, a mixed bag in terms of growth. While the state has not yet released this year's numbers, between 2010 and 2018, statewide enrollment only grew 8.09% whereas SVVSD alone had an enrollment increase of 19.21% which was more than double the state's rate during that same time. This shows that while the state is experiencing slow growth, SVVSD's is much faster.

SVVSD is in one of the areas experiencing more growth and overall has had an increase in enrolled students across the entire district, from 31,542 to 31,736 or 1.6%. That said, a number of feeder systems in the district have been experiencing small declines while others continue to grow. For example, 2018-2019 school year saw, for the first time in a number of years, a decline in the Hispanic student population across the district. However, there has been a modest gain in Hispanic students during this year for 2019-2020.

Additionally, two feeder systems, Niwot High School and Lyons High School, experienced decreases in enrollment, while the other six systems in the district experienced overall growth in the past ten years. Charter schools also had a slight increase from last year's enrollment report.

Niwot schools reported a net loss of 34 students last year, however, this is only the latest in a declining trend. In fact, in 2010, Niwot's feeder system had 13.9% of all students enrolled in SVVSD: that's a little more than one eighth of all public school students in the district. This year, Niwot feeder students only make up 9.9% of enrolled students, which is less than one tenth of the district's student population. Given that, one may argue that Niwot's feeder system has declined solely because other schools are gaining students. To put the shrinking enrollment numbers in another perspective, between 2010 and 2019, Niwot High's enrollment numbers have decreased by 107 students. This is notable, especially when compared to the district's fastest growing school, Erie High School, which has gained 707 students in the past nine years.

Some of the decline in Niwot's system is due to families turning to private and charter schools or even other districts. The exchange of students going between SVVSD and Boulder Valley is well documented, but the gap between the two is shrinking.

However, many families are simply leaving the district all together. While there is not a clear reason for this exodus, socioeconomic and political reasons are both suspected.

Just because Niwot has experienced a decline doesn't indicate a total loss. This system is relatively high in open enrollment and there are projections of increased birth rates in the area, which, in a few years hopefully will help raise enrollment numbers. Additionally, there's a lot of projected growth in regard to the population. Since the district previously has proven to withstand one statewide decline in enrollment, there is optimism at the board level for the district's future.

Board of Education President Joie Siegrist said, "My takeaway, overall, is just that the district is in a very good position. We're fortunate that the district continued to grow this year, which I think is reflective of programming and leadership and many other positive indicators."

To access the enrollment report and view Toillion's presentation, visit http://www.svvsd.org/events/board-education-regular-meeting-45


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