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On count day, a look at the ups and downs of Denver enrollment

Maxwell Elementary principal Nivan Khosravi greets students as they arrive. Several weeks into the semester, he still had new students arriving.
Maxwell Elementary principal Nivan Khosravi greets students as they arrive. Several weeks into the semester, he still had new students arriving.
Kate Schimel

Schools around the state are keeping a close eye on attendance today as they prepare to submit the exact number of students they have to the state. For many Denver schools, that number is higher than it was a month ago, when school started.

Oct. 1 is count day, when the number of students in classroom seats on that day determines how much funding schools and districts will receive. In Denver, that count will likely show a continuation of an upward trend that started several years ago, with more and more students enrolled in Denver Public Schools. Last year, that trend resulted in Denver Public Schools beating out Jeffco Public Schools for the title of state’s largest school district.

But it’s already clear that the enrollment increase isn’t uniform across the city. Some schools have seen a steady stream of students arriving, even after school started. For others, the numbers of students district officials projected would enroll failed to materialize.

District estimates suggest that over 2,000 more students have enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade in Denver than official state counts last year. Preschool enrollment, a focus for the district, is still too in flux to estimate but last year, it helped boost Denver’s numbers above Jeffco’s.

But one pattern that has also emerged — and promises to create challenges for schools — is a large number of students enrolling after the start of the year. The number of students who enrolled after the first day of school district-wide almost doubled this year, from 750 to 1406.

Large numbers of students arriving after the start of school creates a tangle for teachers and schools, as they try and retrieve records and place students where they’ll learn best. Districts like Denver have tried to streamline their systems to make new student arrivals a faster and less disruptive process, but experts say it’s still a challenge both for students and schools to manage. It can take weeks for a student’s records to arrive and teachers often have to figure out a student’s abilities or academic history with little prior knowledge.

And some Denver school have seen a veritable flood of students. At George Washington High School, 37 new students enrolled between the first day of school and Sept. 11. Also high on the list was Place Bridge Academy, with 32 new students, and Eagleton Elementary, with 28 new students.

Explore our database of how many new students arrived after the start of the year at Denver schools in the past two years.

But some schools are facing a different challenge entirely — not enough students. At Manual High School, where an impending but undefined overhaul has thrown the school’s future into question, enrollment fell substantially below the district’s projections.

Just 279 students have enrolled in the school this year. That’s down over thirty percent from last year and is over 140 students fewer that district officials predicted. That drop led to a loss of roughly $262,000 in funding for the school, even after the district provided additional support to the struggling school. That means school leaders have had to cut four teaching position and a staff position.

Across the district, 31 teachers will lose their positions due to reductions in staff, based on enrollment. The district did not provide additional details on where those cuts took place.

Teachers, have you noticed lots of new faces in your classroom? What are the challenges of getting them incorporated in the flow of the classroom? Any tips for other teachers? Tell us at co.tips@chalkbeat.org or on Twitter @ChalkbeatCO. We’ll follow up with teachers’ responses and more on the challenges of getting new students up to speed.

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