CEDAR FALLS — Enrollment is on the rise at all levels in Cedar Falls Community Schools.
The official count taken Oct. 1 shows there were 5,401 kindergarten through 12th-grade students enrolled in the district’s 10 schools, 80 more than a year earlier. Numbers had to be certified with the state Oct. 15.
Superintendent Andy Pattee said it is “always exciting to see when you have those large of increases.” While enrollment was projected to grow, the spurt was higher than anticipated, he noted, largely due to families moving into the district.
Students totaled 3,005 at the seven elementaries, 28 more than last year. The junior high schools had 35 more students, despite a five-student drop at Holmes. The high school, with an enrollment of 1,140, had 17 more students.
Attendance boundaries were shifted with the addition this fall of Bess Streeter Aldrich Elementary School. Aldrich’s boundaries encompass parts of what had been the Lincoln and Southdale elementary schools’ attendance areas, leading to a drop of 160 and 163 students, respectively, compared to a year ago. The new school’s enrollment exceeds that combined shift by 21 students, though.
Enrollment grew at three other elementary schools with six more students at North Cedar, 12 more at Hansen and 23 more at Orchard Hill. There were 34 fewer students at Cedar Heights Elementary School.
The opening of a new school along with the ongoing renovation and expansion of Orchard Hill and North Cedar elementaries are taking care of space issues at the elementary level. But concerns are still looming for secondary students as enrollment continues to increase.
“The biggest one is at Peet, where you can see we had a pretty significant increase,” said Pattee. The junior high school has 40 more students than a year ago. Higher enrollments are expected to continue in coming years.
“We’re going to have larger classes come through just due to the fact that we have larger classes at the elementary level,” said Pattee.
Budget enrollment grew even more from a year ago than the attendance count, increasing 110.06 pupils to 5,237.57. The superintendent noted, “That is higher than what we anticipated and certainly exciting to see.”
The number is used in a formula to determine per pupil state funding levels for districts. It includes the actual students in the schools plus adjustments for those who come into or leave them through special education placements and open enrollment choices, for example. The decimal point accounts for students who are home-schooled or enrolled in nonpublic schools while taking some district or college classes.
As a result, the 319 students attending Cedar Falls Schools from outside of the district are subtracted from the enrollment count to determine the budget numbers. But funds for those students are then received from the districts where they reside. Most of those students — 312 — are open enrolled into the district with the remainder coming in through special education or foreign exchange programs and paid tuition.
Open enrollment has been on the decline, and this year’s number is two students less than in 2017. Space concerns have limited open enrollment into the district, but Iowa law doesn’t allow denial of continuous enrollment to families with children in the schools who move to another district.
Open enrollment out of Cedar Falls Schools is almost unchanged from last year at 98.9 pupils. That is one of the categories of students added to the budget enrollment with funds passed on to the district where the child attends. Another category where funds pass through are the 26 students who “tuition out,” typically because they have disabilities and need to be served in a different setting.
Cedar Falls Schools also receives funding for 27 preschool students with individual education plans and 3.67 home-schooled or nonpublic school pupils who take college or high school classes through the district.
Counted separately are the 165 children enrolled in the district’s free 4-year-old preschool program. The state provides half of the regular K-12 per pupil funding for these students, who don’t attend a full day of school. There are 26 more students enrolled in this program than last year.
“We opened up another section this year just because of the opening up of Aldrich,” said Pattee, noting the district still has a waiting list of 60 to 70 preschoolers due to a lack of space. That is expected to improve next year when a preschool classroom opens at Orchard Hill Elementary School.
“At the end of all our elementary construction work, we’ll have space for a preschool at all of our elementary buildings — which was not the case prior to that,” said Pattee.