CEDAR FALLS — With its new elementary building open, there’s more space for the youngest students in Cedar Falls Community Schools. However, the district also is growing at the secondary level.
A total of 5,420 students were attending kindergarten through 12th grade in the district’s 10 schools as of Thursday, the first day of classes. That is 116 more students than on the eighth day of school last year, when officials released their initial enrollment numbers.
Elementary school enrollment of 3,013 accounts for 55 of the additional students, almost half of the increase. Bess Streeter Aldrich Elementary School, with a capacity of 640 students, enrolled 344 on its first day. Enrollment grew by another 39 students at the junior high level and 22 at Cedar Falls High School.
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“I think we’re a little bit higher than we anticipated for first-day numbers,” said Superintendent Andy Pattee, noting the residential and commercial growth across Cedar Falls — including a lot of ongoing construction work.
Some home construction is happening in the southwest part of the district around Aldrich, the district’s seventh elementary school. “We know that is going to be an area that will continue to grow,” he said. The attendance area encompasses parts of what had been the Lincoln and Southdale elementary areas after boundary adjustments went into effect with the start of school.
That has led to a drop in enrollment at those schools, easing a space crunch during recent years. Southdale had 161 fewer students than a year ago while Lincoln had 151 less.
“They go back down into student capacity zones that were intended,” said Pattee. “It allows us for much more flexibility and adaptation in those spaces.”
Cedar Heights Elementary School was the only other building with a notable drop in student numbers on the first day. The school’s enrollment, which was 35 less than last year’s initial count, has a “tendency to fluctuate more than others,” Pattee explained.
Aldrich’s opening plus ongoing construction projects to update North Cedar and Orchard Hill elementary schools are ensuring the district has space at that level for the foreseeable future. “As we work to expand our capacity at the elementaries, we feel comfortable with where we’re at (in) the buildings,” said Pattee.
But he noted administrators are already anticipating tighter space at the two junior highs and the high school “just as we look at the numbers in our elementary sections.”
Combined enrollment at Holmes and Peet junior highs totaled 1,259 while the high school had 1,148 students. The high school had a small bump in capacity as it added students this fall. A two-classroom portable building was moved from Southdale this summer and installed at the high school.