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State student count grows 1.1 percent

Colorado K-12 student enrollment grew to 863,561 students in the current school year, the Department of Education reported in its annual enrollment count.

The growth of 1.1 percent amounted to 9,296 students and was in line with the percentage increases of recent years. The count includes all students – whether they are full-time or not. Kindergarten students, for instance, are usually half time.

Put in a longer perspective, enrollment has grown nearly 15 percent in the last decade.

The statewide percentage of all students eligible for free- and reduced-price lunch, 40.8 percent, was down slightly from 41.3 percent in 2011-12.

The annual student count is closely watched because enrollment is a major factor in the formula used to determine individual district funding.

The count is based on actual attendance in a small window of time around Oct. 1. In recent years there’s been growing concern about whether the so-called single count date accurately reflects district enrollment across a full school year. Legislators this year are expected to consider proposals to change the counting method.

The annual count spotlights the difference in Colorado schools. A few large districts enroll the majority of students in contrast to the large number of districts with relatively few students.

Just 15 districts enroll 67.8 percent of state students, while 134 districts have fewer than 2,000 students apiece and enroll only 8.1 percent of all students. Of those districts, 108 have enrollments of less than 1,000 students each.

The largest 15 districts and their enrollments are: Jeffco (85,508), Denver (83,377), Douglas County (64,657), Cherry Creek (53,368), Adams 12-Five Star (43,268), Aurora (39,835), Boulder Valley (30,041), St. Vrain Valley (29,382), Colorado Springs District 11 (28,993), Poudre (27,909), Academy (23,973), Mesa County (21,730), Greeley-Evans (19,821), Pueblo City (17,692) and Brighton (16,163).

Denver had the largest student increase, 2,487, and Douglas County, St. Vrain and the Charter School Institute each showed gains of more than 1,000 students. The Julesburg district saw enrollment grow 30 percent (266 students), primarily because of growth in online enrollment.

Colorado Springs District 11 showed the largest decrease, 516 students or 1.8 percent. The district is considering closing Wasson High School and two other schools. Some small rural districts also reported significant percentage decreases.

This year’s count found 16,638 students enrolled in online programs, a 2.6 percent increase from the prior year.

The number of students identified as multi-racial increased 8.3 percent to 28,238, while the number of American Indian students decreased 6 percent. Changes for other ethnic groups were less than 3 percent compared to the prior year.