Courier Staff Writer
The Ottumwa school district’s enrollment has trended downward for several years, but this year is different, with the district seeing an increase of 14 students.
“Traditionally we have had a slow decline in our enrollment, but this year we saw an increase,” said School Board President Carol Mitchell. “Nobody knows why.”
The increase was somewhat expected, since preschool enrollment was up last year, but this year’s kindergarten class alone shot up 73 students.
“But we lost some students in other grades, so we had a net increase of 14 students,” Mitchell said.
The trend for rural areas is for student enrollment to decrease each year, she said.
“We calculate about a half-percent drop every year,” she said. “There’s no real reason for that, it’s just been the trend.”
Districts with a lot of money, Mitchell said, will hire firms to come in and give them a projection of what they think the student population in that city will look like in five years by studying all facets of the community.
“In a more rural area, we just traditionally have not had a significant increase in any long period of time over the last several years,” she said.
Since Ottumwa’s student population of 4,750 in 2003, enrollment shot up to 4,800 in 2005 but then suffered a sharp decline by 2007, when the district dropped 300 students.
“Since that time, we’ve lost slowly,” she said. “We were down to 4,400 students last year.”