Council Bluffs Community School District enrollment dropped again this year, but there were a couple bright spots in the figures.
The district’s official Certified Enrollment for this year — a weighted count used in the state’s school funding formula — is 9,053.91, down 70.88 students from the 2017-18 school year. The decrease will cost the district an estimated $300,000 in state funding for the 2019-20 school year, according to Dean Wilson, chief financial officer.
That’s still an improvement from last year, when certified enrollment fell by roughly 130 students.
Part of the problem is that not much new housing – especially single-family — is being built in the district that might attract more families, said Tim Hamilton, executive director of student and family services.
“We’re landlocked … so trying to grow enrollment is really hard within these boundaries,” he said.
“What I’m concerned about is young professionals — those couples who haven’t started families yet,” Superintendent Vickie Murillo said.
The good news is that the district did not lose as many resident students to open enrollment, Hamilton said. This year, there are 710.3 students open-enrolled out — down 14.8 students and the lowest number since 2013-14. Meanwhile, 265 students open-enrolled into the district — up 16 from last year and an all-time high. That means the gap between students lost and students gained narrowed by 30.8 students.
The district’s promotional campaign, inviting parents to tour school buildings and increased efforts to recruit students for Kindergarten Roundup helped, Hamilton said. The district had a graduating class of only 595 students last spring and a large kindergarten class of 717 starting this fall. Kindergarten enrollment is up 25 from last year, and preschool enrollment is up 14.
“We know if we can get the kids here, they’re more likely to stay,” he said.
Based on Pottawattamie County births, the district anticipates having a kindergarten class of more than 700 again next year, said Dave Fringer, chief technology officer, who works on birth and enrollment statistics, among other things. Usually, about 58 percent of the children born in the county attend Council Bluffs Community Schools five years later, he said. About 80 percent of the children born in the county enroll in either Council Bluffs or Lewis Central Community Schools.
If students do leave the district, they’re most likely to return when they make the transition to middle or high school, when they are already faced with moving to a different building, Hamilton said. It could be because of the facility, programming, athletics or just personal reasons.
Ongoing efforts to increase enrollment include launching the Early College Academy, expanding the district’s involvement in Head Start and developing the TradeWorks Academy.