The Ottumwa Courier

Education

January 4, 2013

Iowa finally sees student population growth

Ottumwa part of the increase

OTTUMWA — This year’s seniors weren’t even in nursery school the last time Iowa’s student population rose.

The Iowa Department of Education said Thursday the state’s enrollment rose this school year for the first time since 1996; that’s 17 years.

“Kindergarten is our largest of the 13 grades we have,” said Davis Eidahl, Ottumwa school superintendent. “About 60 more students  atttend kindergarten than [the number of seniors who] will be graduating. I don’t know if this is a trend, but with all the growing opportunities in southeast Iowa and Ottumwa, we hope to start maybe seeing a growth trend.”

A total of 476,245 students are enrolled in Iowa schools this year, an increase of 2,741 students. But that’s still down from the peak of 654,000 students in 1972-73. Locally, Moulton-Udell saw a boom, and, to a lesser extent, Ottumwa had some growth, too. In fact, Ottumwa has been one of the districts that didn’t lose many students in recent years.

At one time, the steadiness of the local district compared to others was explained by rising numbers of Hispanic students as their parents found work in Ottumwa. Though Wapello County was once called the U.S. county with the largest increase of Hispanic residents, that’s not where credit goes this time, Eidahl believes.

“Over the past several years, they have leveled off our declining enrollment. They helped us maintain our enrollment,” he said. “[However] there was no increase in our minority population starting about five years ago.”

The state points to higher birth rates nationally between 2003-08 as a reason for the increase.

“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.

Especially after years of what he called a population in “free fall,” this is good news.

“Iowa is a good place to live,” said Missy Carson-Roark, principal at Horace Mann Elementary School, “and a good place to send your kids to school, Iowa and Ottumwa. We know our test scores have been down, and we are working ways to improve.”

In fact, it’s going to take hard work over a period of time — grit and endurance —  but hard work isn’t something that Iowans are afraid of, she said. That and an education system that is still better than average.

“This community is getting better,” she said. “There’s a lot of good in Ottumwa.”

Eidahl said that can help keep a community growing.

“It’s almost a perfect storm,” said Eidahl. “The foundation is there now with a lot of good things in place.”

If a community has “good things” in place, then families look for two main goals: Are there good schools and are there work opportunities?

“As a community,” Eidahl said, “if we focus on jobs and education, we’ll be successful.”

Matt Milner of CNHI contributed to this article.

1
Text Only
Education
  • IHCC buildings.jpg Grant helps Hills keep students on track

    OTTUMWA — Thanks to a grant designed to improve graduation rates, Indian Hills Community College now has even more tools in its campuswide effort to help students with needs and give them the resources they need to stay in class. Indian Hills is one

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0710 OTT Bulldogs update color photo -L -M High school students lead Bulldog charge

    OTTUMWA — Two Ottumwa High School students gave their very first press conference Wednesday morning to share their progress on decorating Ottumwa with large bulldog statues. Alyssa Cash and Madyson Feather joined Main Street Ottumwa Executive Directo

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0710 OTT Smart snacks color photo -M -L Schools adopt new food regulations

    OTTUMWA — This fall, students across the country will find big changes in the cafeteria, but Ottumwa kids may find they approve of the changes. The new "Smart Snacks in School" standards from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) went in

    July 9, 2014 1 Photo

  • Survey finds math, science grads earn top dollar WASHINGTON (AP) — It seems to matter less whether your alma mater is public or private than what you study — math and science in particular — when it comes to finding a high-paying job after college, according to a report released Tuesday by the Educ

    July 8, 2014

  • Pekin and Tri-County to share superintendent PACKWOOD — Both Pekin and Tri-County Community School Districts have voted to approve Operational Sharing Incentives for superintendent during the 2014-15 school year. During the 2014 legislative session, the Legislature passed and the governor signe

    July 2, 2014

  • Teaching the teachers

    OTTUMWA — The community has formally advised the school district that strong teachers lead to strong students. Now Ottumwa teachers have "coaches" to help them boost educational muscle. Though the idea is now formalized under a Legislative state plan

    May 29, 2014

  • 0525 OTT OHS graduation web-color photo 3 OHS seniors say farewell OTTUMWA - Sunday marked the end of high school for all the graduating seniors from Ottumwa High School. Family and friends of the students packed the Bridge View Center, leaving standing room only for late-comers. You could feel the excitement in the

    May 25, 2014 4 Photos

  • Slideshow: OHS graduation

    May 25, 2014

  • 0524 OTT OCS graduation web-color photo 3 Small ceremony for big achievements OTTUMWA - Saturday was a special day for the four seniors graduating from Ottumwa Christian School. This small graduating class is double the size of last year's class and illustrates the small-group learning style of the school. Family and friends o

    May 24, 2014 3 Photos

  • Slideshow: Ottumwa Christian graduation

    May 24, 2014

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National