EM, Essex see increases in certified enrollment

Area school districts have finalized their certified enrollment numbers for the 2022-23 school year.
While some districts saw gains, the Red Oak School District had some losses in its certified enrollment numbers. Superintendent Ron Lorenz said the district’s 2022 “actual enrollment” was 1,033.9 students, which is 39.22 students fewer than last year.
“We lost about the same number of students this year than we gained last year. This puts our enrollment back roughly to where we were prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. With this year’s 3.6% decline, our 10-year enrollment trend is -17.9 students per year,” Lorenz said.
Lorenz gave a breakdown of the factors that led to the decline in enrollment for this year as opposed to last year.
“We had 16 additional students who open enrolled out of the district, but only two additional students who open enrolled in since last year. We recently had two additional students open enroll into the district and one open enrolled-out student return, but these students will not be reflected in our 2022 count,” said Lorenz. “Last year’s senior class included 84 students, while this year’s kindergarten class consists of 77 students. We also lost approximately 47 students due to relocation or change in residence, and gained less than 20 move-in students from last year’s count day.”
Looking ahead to the rest of the year, Lorenz outlined some options to hopefully move the needle on enrollment for the 2023-24 school year.
“We will keep focusing on what we can control, which is teaching and learning. We are going to put our heads down and continue to grind out ways to improve our instruction, attendance, student supports, culture and climate, communication, and ultimately student outcomes. We will also continue to look for efficiencies and ways to make the most of what we already have,” Lorenz said.
Stanton Superintendent David Gute said, like Red Oak, the Stanton district has also seen a bit of an enrollment decrease this year, but he’s satisfied with the numbers.
“We are down one student from 267 last year to 266 students this year. I feel if you are staying even in Southwest Iowa at this time it is a win for the district,” Gute said.
Gute outlined the Stanton district’s plans to keep enrollment numbers from declining further as they move into the 2023-24 school year.
“We need to continue to provide a quality educational program. We are proud of how our students do academically, and that is always the number one goal. We need to keep putting quality educators in front of our students, and our students will continue to perform well on assessments and in other activities. I feel if we can do this we will continue to have enrollment numbers to be a successful district,” commented Gute.
Southwest Valley superintendent Chris Fenster said numbers at Southwest Valley were holding somewhat steady between last year and this year.
“Our certified enrollment for this year between Corning and Villisca is 692 students, down slightly from last year’s 693.37. Numbers of students served are 662.27, down slightly from 666.37 in 2021. Our numbers are pretty stable as we restart the reorganization process again, and with a smaller senior class in Corning and a projected larger kindergarten class next year, it should tip the enrollment in a positive direction,” advised Fenster.
Fenster added the district is hoping the culture and the success it has in the classroom will help as they attract more students to SWV in the coming school year.
David Heinrichs, superintendent with the Griswold district, said there was a decline in enrollment for this year, as opposed to last year.
“There are two student counts. The first is called certified enrollment. This represents the number of students who live in your district, regardless of where they attend school. Our current certified enrollment is 446.8. This is 9.90 less than a year ago,” Heinrichs explained. “The other student count is called BEDS. This stands for Basic Education Data Survey. The BEDS count consists of the students that a district serves each day, regardless of where they reside. Currently, our BEDS enrollment is 383.1. This is 23.2 less than a year ago.”
Heinrichs outlined the main reason why Griswold’s enrollment declined for the current year.
“A majority of our decreased enrollment (BEDS) is due to open enrollment. Our district has 10 more students open enroll in this year, but 30 more open enroll out.  Therefore, this accounts for 20 of the 23.2 decrease in the BEDS enrollment,” Heinrichs said.
Heinrichs added the Griswold District will be examining the reasons for the decline in enrollment, in the hopes that they can improve for next year.
“The district will be researching the reasons for the increased open enrollment out.  Based upon the results of that research, if the reasons are within our control, appropriate changes will be considered,” advised Heinrichs.
In the Essex District, superintendent Mike Wells said they’ve seen a slight uptick in the numbers from 2021.
“Essex had 185.5 students certified this year, as opposed to 183.40 last year, but we have a ton of open enrollment in, so we have 75 opened enrolled into our district compared to 55 last year. We currently educate 198.10 students this year compared to 180 last year,” Wells stated.
Wells said a number of positive changes in the district, he believes, helped contribute to the numbers, specifically the district’s open enrollment.
 “I believe we are seeing a great number of open enrolled students into the district because of the programs we are offering, including career academies, farm school, and the maker space program. Many parents want a smaller school setting for their children, and aggressive curriculums that challenge their children and create a fun environment for their children to learn. Essex offers these types of things,” Wells commented.
Wells said the Essex district planned to keep doing everything it needed to do to bring students to the district in the coming years.
“The state has changed open enrollment rules which now allows students to come and go as they wish. We are making plans for an additional 15 students who may open enroll into our district during this school year,” Wells explained. “We are anticipating an increase of our student population to be 250 students by 2025 which is a great number for our size of community. We have seen a steady increase over the past few years. We believe by adding curriculum and programming students will want to come to our school. We will continue this trend over the next five years.”
Finally, East Mills superintendent Tim Hood said his district has also seen a slight uptick in students as it progresses through the 2022-23 school year.
“Last year, we certified 527.10 students, and this year, we increased that to 528.46 students. We are basically even this year. We don’t have a lot of homes for sale right now either,” Hood said.
Hood added he expects a new project for the district will only help those numbers increase next year.
“We are excited about getting started with the new addition at the junior/senior high school building so we can have everything on one campus. We also look forward to the SWITCH Facility getting up and going,” stated Hood.

The Red Oak Express

2012 Commerce Drive
P.O. Box 377
Red Oak, IA 51566
Phone: 712-623-2566 Fax: 712-623-2568

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