DES MOINES — Iowa’s K-12 schools experienced an enrollment increase in the current school year.
Statewide certified enrollment numbers issued Thursday by the Iowa Department of Education indicate the first significant climb in student numbers since 1996. A total of 476,245 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th-grade classes in Iowa public schools in the 2012-13 school year — an increase of sixth-tenths of 1 percent, or 2,741 students, from the previous year.
About half of Iowa’s 348 school districts reported an enrollment increase, and the other half reported a decrease in enrollment from the year before.
Enrollment climbed in 170 districts (49 percent), while declines were reported in 167 school districts (48 percent). Eleven districts saw no change in enrollment figures from the 2011-12 school year.
State officials say this year marks the first significant enrollment increase for Iowa’s 348 school districts in 17 years, although overall enrollment has declined over the past five years. Enrollment peaked in the 1972-73 school year with 645,000 students attending Iowa public schools.
The statewide enrollment increase is caused in part by an upsurge in birth rates from 2003 to 2008, according to state Department of Education officials. Birth rates spiked in 2007 but have decreased in recent years.
“This statewide increase is refreshing news for Iowa after years of declining enrollment. However, the reality is that this increase most likely is temporary,” said Jay Pennington, chief of the Iowa Department of Education’s Bureau of Information and Analysis.
“We see pockets of enrollment growth in the urban and suburban areas of the state, while the long-term trends show rural areas continue to experience declining enrollment,” Pennington added.
Waukee, Des Moines and Ankeny reported the largest one-year enrollment number increases, while West Sioux, Moulton-Udell and Waukee reported the largest one-year percentage increases.
In the past five years, public school enrollment statewide has declined from 477,019 students in 2008-09 to 476,245 in 2012-13. Of Iowa’s 348 school districts, 233 (67 percent) reported an enrollment decrease during that five-year period, while 115 districts (33 percent) reported an increase, according to DOE data.