The Ottumwa Courier

Ottumwa

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
Ottumwa
  • halo-5-guardians-concept_wallpaper-1920x1080-53cf9b0098ea45ada37dc0f66bc174f5.jpg The Art of Kong

    OTTUMWA — The Mona Lisa. Whistler's Mother. Donkey Kong? Don't be so surprised, said Walter Day, that video games and the surrounding memorabilia are being considered art. The creativity and artistic vision required to create a poster, said the found

    July 28, 2014 1 Photo

  • Urbandale comes back to beat Ottumwa Midwest BOONE — Ottumwa Midwest led by seven runs in the fourth inning, but Urbandale National put together a furious comeback to steal the victory, 12-11, on Friday at the 9-10 Year Old Little League State Baseball Tournament. The top of the first saw Ottum

    July 25, 2014

  • Parks Dept. has long list of projects

    OTTUMWA — The Parks and Recreation Department has approved a list of capital improvements for the next two years that includes the installation of handicapped-accessible swings and new park bathrooms.

    July 9, 2014

  • 0710 Farmers Market Color Photo 1 -L -M Fresh food improves community

    OTTUMWA — Every summer across the Midwest, food stands pop up on gravel roads, and farmers markets are filled with a variety of home-grown products. Finding a fresh selection of healthy greens and juicy fruits isn't as hard as you might think. Accord

    July 9, 2014 2 Photos

  • 0703 OTT Heart boy photo A Heartfelt Miracle OTTUMWA — It’s funny how wishes can change so completely in just a few weeks. But laughter wasn’t the reaction of Jeff and Mary Penrod.The Ottumwa couple’s son, Brandon, was 18 years old when, in February, Mary took him to the Pella clinic to get loo

    July 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • 0703 OTT River Hills parking lot color photo -L -T River Hills expansion progresses

    OTTUMWA — Expanding River Hills Community Health Center downtown continues to be a priority with the Ottumwa City Council. Earlier this week, the council authorized city staff to survey the property, prepare a draft developers agreement as well as pr

    July 2, 2014 1 Photo

  • Street repair program begins OTTUMWA — If you think roadwork projects in the city of Ottumwa are just about complete, think again. This week, the Ottumwa City Council awarded its preventative maintenance contract for sealing cracks in asphalt and concrete pavement roads througho

    July 2, 2014

  • A new look OTTUMWA — The 300 block of East Main Street in Ottumwa will be getting a facelift. During a public hearing earlier this week, the Ottumwa City Council gave its OK to the plans and specifications to renovate 15 buildings’ storefronts in downtown Ottum

    July 2, 2014

  • City won't tolerate bad behavior

    OTTUMWA — A newly designed policy to establish standards of behavior was presented to Ottumwa City Council on Tuesday night.The new policy’s introduction on Tuesday, demands city staff and elected officials exhibit professional behavior when they int

    July 1, 2014

  • 0702 OTT library grant color photo -T -L -M Ottumwa Public Library updates genealogy room

    OTTUMWA — The Ottumwa Public Library is the recipient of a Bright Ideas Community Enrichment Fund Grant from the Ottumwa Regional Legacy Foundation. The Friends of the Ottumwa Public Library group gave $5,520 to put toward a new microfilm reader. The

    July 1, 2014 1 Photo

Obituaries
Record
Facebook
AP National