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Ryan Kilburn checks his schedule before leaving a bank of lockers at Overland Trail Middle School on August 17, 2017, in Brighton, Colorado. (Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post)

Ryan Kilburn checks his schedule before leaving a bank of lockers at Overland Trail Middle School on August 17, 2017, in Brighton, Colorado. (Photo by Seth McConnell/The Denver Post)

Charter and online schools report the largest increase in students in Colorado

Colorado’s student population grew again in the fall of 2017, but by the smallest numbers since 1989. The biggest increases were in charter and online schools, according to data released by the state.

A total of 910,280 public school students from preschool through 12th grade were counted in the annual student count day in October, up from 905,019 last year.

Racially, the biggest student increases were among Hispanic students who now represent 33.7 percent of all Colorado public school students.

Statewide the number of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch decreased by more than 1,700 to 379,458 students. The number of students who are learning English as a second language also decreased.

Among district enrollments, the Charter School Institute, which opened two new schools this year, logged the biggest growth, adding 1,128 students, a 6.9 percent increase from 2016. The Charter School Institute is a network of charter schools authorized by the state but located throughout Colorado.

Students enrolled in online schools also grew substantially. This school year, 19,876 Colorado students are enrolled in an online school, a 1.5 percent increase from 2016.

Several school districts surrounding the metro area saw drops in enrollment. Aurora Public Schools had the largest drop with 40,920 students in 2017 down from 41,797 in 2016 — a decrease of 877 students or 2.1 percent. Officials in Aurora have blamed rising housing costs that are driving out many families and instead attracting younger millenials who don’t have children.

Officials in districts dealing with lower student enrollments have also cited a decrease in the birth rate through the recession years as a reason for fewer students, especially in the early grades.

Districts with biggest increases:

DISTRICTNEW STUDENTS% INCREASE
Charter School Institute1,1286.9%
Cherry Creek School District8421.5%
Las Animas School District54446%
School District 27J7684.5%
Denver Public Schools6620.7%
Falcon 46142.9%

Districts with biggest decreases:

DISTRICTSTUDENT DECREASE% DECREASE
Aurora Public Schools8772.1%
Colorado Springs 114841.7%
Pueblo City 603892.2%
Jeffco Public Schools2350.3%
Westminster Public Schools1972%

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