The Ottumwa Courier

Local News

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
Local News
  • A change at Evans OTTUMWA — You can get kids to memorize facts. But teaching them to think can take more time. Educational leaders told the Ottumwa school board that the school year that begins 2014 will shift Evans Middle School students from 45-minute periods to 60-

    April 17, 2014

  • 0418 OTT Tree City U.S.A. logo Ottumwa awarded as Tree City U.S.A. again OTTUMWA — Having big, beautiful trees throughout a community can help spruce up a city and make it more attractive to visitors. Ottumwa has shown a dedication to making the community more green and inviting, and the efforts have been recognized by th

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418 OTT Agriculture Day color photo 2 -T -L -M Cardinal students celebrate Ag Day ELDON — Sometimes the best way to learn is to get out of the classroom and come face-to-face with things that you might not see every day. Students at Cardinal Elementary School got that chance Thursday during Ag Day. Every year, the Cardinal FFA and

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418 OTT Five Things logo -T -L -M Five things to do in southeast Iowa this weekend OTTUMWA — It's a weekend of Easter celebrations, historic events and educational opportunities in southeast Iowa. Many people are gathered together this weekend, and the surrounding communities have scheduled events perfect for the whole family. 1. S

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0418 OTT Joe Tafta bw photo -L -T -M Pursuing opportunities OTTUMWA — Joe Tafta follows the rules. The Simpson College junior hopes to be a U.S. marshal one day, so he’s careful about what he says and does. But not always. On the afternoon of April 1, Tafta says, he nearly got booted out of Dunn Library for m

    April 17, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0418 OTT OEDC director -T Guiding our growth OTTUMWA — An organization designed to help Ottumwa grow has found a new employee in Indiana. The Ottumwa Economic Development Corporation (OEDC) board has chosen Sharon Stroh as the group's new executive director. “We are confident she will hit the g

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0417 OTT Earth day color photo 1 -T -M Cargill celebrates Earth Day by educating ALBIA — In honor of Earth Day on Tuesday, April 22, employees from Cargill Eddyville and Cargill Pork are visiting with students at Grant Elementary and Lincoln Center in Albia all this week. On Wednesday the Courier caught up with them as they went

    April 16, 2014 3 Photos

  • 0417 OTT Saving Center color photo -T -L -M Hedrick building has friends HEDRICK — The community wants a civic center, and they've been willing to work for it. "I'd say we have 15 to 25 volunteers each time," Tommy Smith of Hedrick said. "These are all good people." Smith was volunteering his services at the Easter Brunch

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

  • Southern Iowa farmers preparing for planting OTTUMWA — Even though the winter seemed to linger like Iowa was going through an ice age and cold and wet weather has highlighted the early spring, farmers are starting to get out to their fields to put down fertilizer and get fields ready for planti

    April 16, 2014

  • 0417 OTT Camp Wapello fence photo -T -M -L Good fence irritates good neighbor DRAKESVILLE — For 82 years, Camp Wapello’s iconic entryway has welcomed people to peacefully coexist with nature. Now there’s a 400-foot barbed wire fence down the middle of the road. In February, Davis County Supervisors approved vacating of portion

    April 16, 2014 1 Photo

Photo reprints


Obituaries

Facebook
E-edition