With the fastest-growing school district in Colorado, the Pikes Peak region’s 17 public school districts are surpassing statewide growth, according to enrollment numbers released Thursday.

Pupil count among Colorado’s 178 public school districts was flat this academic year, the Colorado Department of Education reports, showing a preschool through 12th grade enrollment increase of 0.2% over 2018.

But the Pikes Peak region’s districts collectively grew by 1.2% this school year to a total of 123,944 students.

Leading the state is School District 49 based in Peyton, east of Colorado Springs. Of districts with more than 100 students, D-49 had the largest fall semester increase compared to 2018, adding 1,493 students for a 6.7% increase to 23,890 students.

The jump was enough to bump D-49 up from 13th largest in the state to the 12th largest district, surpassing Greeley-Evans School District 6.

D-49 officials had projected a hefty influx based on residential construction in D-49 neighborhoods as well as “steady movement of military families into our region,” said spokesman David Nancarrow.

“We have been among the fastest-growing districts in the state for the past five years and anticipate we’ll continue on this type of pace into the near future,” he said.

D-49 built and opened two new elementary schools in the past few years, which will address the need for four to six years, he said. Constructing a new middle school in the next two to three years is the new priority, Nancarrow said.

Not all local districts are growing. As reported in The Gazette after the fall pupil count, Colorado Springs School District 11 has lost its title as the region’s largest school district, losing 355 students this school year for a total of 26,040, a 1.3% drop from last year.

At the same time, Academy School District 20 gained 425 students for 26,603, a 1.6% increase.

What possibly pushed Academy D-20 into its new standing was offering tuition-free full-day kindergarten, which Gov. Jared Polis successfully lobbied Colorado lawmakers to fund statewide. 

D-20 had been charging parents for full-day kindergarten and with the free offering, added 490 full-day kindergartners this school year for a total of 1,410, a 53% increase.

Over the past five years, D-20 has gained more than 1,500 students, while D-11 has seen enrollment fall by about 1,900 students.

D-11, the region’s oldest school district, has been anticipating the development, spokeswoman Devra Ashby said, due to aging residents living in the core of the city, the lack of new construction in its boundaries and school choice, which allows students to attend schools outside of their neighborhoods.

D-11 debuted a new strategic plan this school year and is in the process of creating an academic plan.

The district is working on developing pathways for students to chart their own course for reaching graduation by selecting from a host of choices, Ashby said.

To help students accomplish that, D-11 is considering providing transportation for certain specialized programs, from gifted to special needs and dual language immersion. Another line of thought: perhaps old schools could be refurbished to accommodate new programs.

Only one decision has been made thus far, Ashby said. A growth spurt in alternative education programs at the Roy J. Wasson Academic Campus has created the need to move the Nikola Tesla Education Opportunity School to the old Longfellow Elementary School. That will be completed by August and allow other Wasson building programs to expand.

2019-20 Enrollment, Pikes Peak area

State Rank 2019-20 District Name 2019-20 Preschool-12 Pupil Membership 2018-19 Preschool-12 Pupil Membership change % change
10 Academy 20 26603 26178 425 1.60%
11 Colorado Springs 11 26040 26395 -355 -1.30%
12 District 49 23890 22397 1493 6.70%
20 Harrison 2 11518 11708 -190 -1.60%
22 Widefield 3 9669 9592 77 0.80%
25 Fountain-Fort Carson 8 8529 8298 231 2.80%
28 Lewis-Palmer 38 6756 6895 -139 -2.00%
33 Cheyenne Mountain 12 5309 5274 35 0.70%
50 Woodland Park RE-2 2284 2380 -96 -4.00%
59 Manitou Springs 14 1441 1494 -53 -3.50%
70 Ellicott 22 1142 1116 26 2.30%
92 Peyton 23 Jt 626 593 33 5.60%
99 Calhan RJ-1 471 467 4 0.90%
110 Cripple Creek-Victor RE-1 367 372 -5 -1.30%
123 Miami/Yoder 60 JT 288 305 -17 -5.60%
128 Hanover 28 258 248 10 4.00%
132 Edison 54 JT 243 232 11 4.70%
Total El Paso area 125434 123944 1490 1.20%

Other highlights from the 2019-20 official pupil enrollment statistics:

• Unlike the rest of the state, the Pikes Peak region, with the exception of Academy D-20 and Lewis-Palmer School District 38, which saw a 32% increase, did not experience huge increases in kindergarten enrollment after the Legislature approved free full-day kindergarten. Colorado Springs D-11 had the largest enrollment of full-day kindergarten students at 2,075.

• The 17 El Paso County area school districts combined had a slight uptick in minority student enrollment this school year, rising from 42.5% of all students to 43.1%. The regional breakdown for all students is 56.9% white, 25.8% Latino and 6.2% black.

• Harrison School District 2’s student body was the most diverse — 52.1% Latino, 23.6% white and 13.5% black.

• The percent of low income students as measured by eligibility for free and reduced priced lunches fell slightly in the 17 districts combined, from 37.6% to 37.4%. Harrison D-2 was the highest at 77% and Lewis Palmer D-38 was lowest among the larger districts at 10%.

• Statewide, the number of home-schoolers fell from 9,284 to 7,880, or 15.1%. About two-thirds of the decline, or 978 of the 1,404 statewide, were Pikes Peak region students. As a result, home schooling decreased by 36.7% regionally, with the largest decline among parents living in Academy-D-20, which lost 548 students.

Contact the writer: 719-476-1656.

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