Charter and online schools report the largest increase in students in Colorado

A total of 910,280 public school students from preschool through 12th grade were counted in the annual student count day in October, up from 905,019 last year.

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Students at University Prep, a Denver Public Schools charter school, worked on classwork last winter. (Photo by Marc Piscoty)

Students at University Prep, a Denver Public Schools charter school, worked on classwork last winter. (Photo by Marc Piscoty)

By Yesenia Robles, Chalkbeat

Colorado’s student population grew again in the fall of 2017, but by the smallest numbers since 1989. The biggest increases were in charter and online schools, according to data released by the state.

A total of 910,280 public school students from preschool through 12th grade were counted in the annual student count day in October, up from 905,019 last year.

Racially, the biggest student increases were among Hispanic students who now represent 33.7 percent of all Colorado public school students.

Statewide the number of students who qualify for free or reduced price lunch decreased by more than 1,700 to 379,458 students. The number of students who are learning English as a second language also decreased.

Among district enrollments, the Charter School Institute, which opened two new schools this year, logged the biggest growth, adding 1,128 students, a 6.9 percent increase from 2016. The Charter School Institute is a network of charter schools authorized by the state but located throughout Colorado.

Students enrolled in online schools also grew substantially. This school year, 19,876 Colorado students are enrolled in an online school, a 1.5 percent increase from 2016.

Several school districts surrounding the metro area saw drops in enrollment. Aurora Public Schools had the largest drop with 40,920 students in 2017 down from 41,797 in 2016 — a decrease of 877 students or 2.1 percent. Officials in Aurora have blamed rising housing costs that are driving out many families and instead attracting younger millenials who don’t have children.

Officials in districts dealing with lower student enrollments have also cited a decrease in the birth rate through the recession years as a reason for fewer students, especially in the early grades.

Districts with biggest increases:

DISTRICT NEW STUDENTS % INCREASE
Charter School Institute 1,128 6.9%
Cherry Creek School District 842 1.5%
Las Animas School District 544 46%
School District 27J 768 4.5%
Denver Public Schools 662 0.7%
Falcon 4 614 2.9%

Districts with biggest decreases:

DISTRICT STUDENT DECREASE % DECREASE
Aurora Public Schools 877 2.1%
Colorado Springs 11 484 1.7%
Pueblo City 60 389 2.2%
Jeffco Public Schools 235 0.3%
Westminster Public Schools 197 2%

Chalkbeat is a nonprofit news site covering educational change in public schools.