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Kindergarten booming in Eagle County

Daily file photoEagle County is saw large increase this year in the number of young students enrolling in school.
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EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado ” School enrollment shot up an unexpected 453 students this year in Eagle County School District ” the biggest jump seen in at least a decade.

For the past 15 years, schools here have steadily grown on average between three to five percent each year. The 453 new students counted in kindergarten through 12th grade classrooms this year make a 8.53 percent increase.



Just to compare, district enrollment only jumped by 89 students between 2006 and 2007. At Brush Creek Elementary alone this year, enrollment grew by around 97 students ” and that’s not even counting preschool.

Although schools like Brush Creek will have to deal with overcrowding, big boosts in enrollment are usually good for school districts, said Phil Onofrio, chief financial officer for the school district.



More students means more expenses, but they also mean a great deal more state funding. Each additional student will bring in around $7,000.

“We’re glad we’re growing, and we’re glad we’re growing quicker than projected,” Onofrio said. “It gives us extra funding, and when you lose students, it gives you funding and resource problems. Growth is a very good thing for a school district.”

The enrollment boom was seen at most schools in the district.



Growth was seen at all the downvalley schools. Eagle Valley High School, for the first time in recent history, enrolled more students than Battle Mountain High School.

June Creek Elementary, the new school in Edwards, opened with 213 students, a few more than the school district expected. The school was built largely to relieve overcrowding at Avon Elementary and Edwards Elementary ” which were two of only three schools in the district to have a drop in students this year.

Enrollments went up at Meadow Mountain Elementary and Minturn Middle School, which have had steadily decreasing school populations over the past few years and have been running well under capacity. Declining enrollment has made funding and providing services to both those schools more difficult, so more students is a good thing, Onofrio said.

“We have a one year reversal of a long-standing trend ” we hope that continues,” Onofrio said.

The district had the biggest increase in kindergarten enrollment. Last year, there were 499 kindergartners enrolled, and this year it’s 616. The boost in kindergartners makes up nearly 30 percent of the district’s overall increase this year, Onofrio said.

“We’re having an influx of young families,” Onofrio said. “We’re having babies born here, and kids moving in. This is an attractive community to move to.”

For the most part, enrollment trends look much as they have the past few years. Lots of growth is being seen downvalley, as shown by the big jumps in enrollment at Brush Creek and Eagle Valley High School. Unlike previous years though, enrollment stabilized, and even grew, upvalley.

“The west end of the valley continues to grow, but the central and eastern areas are steady ” it’s not the quite the migration we’ve seen in the past. People are staying put,” Onofrio said.

Not only has Eagle County’s student population been growing steadily the past 15 years, and gone up heavily this year, but it’s also going up at a time when many school districts in Colorado are steadily losing students, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

If you count the New America School, a new charter school in Gypsum for high school students learning English, total increase in school enrollment this year is around 544. Onofrio didn’t count the school in growth comparisons, as the school wasn’t up and running by the official count time last year.

Staff Writer Matt Terrell can be reached at 970-748-2955 or mterrell@vaildaily.com.


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