Northeast Joco

January 14, 2014

Public school enrollment shows some shifts

Kansas City Public Schools is down to about 14,000 students, but some other districts are growing.

A boost in the economy. Affordable housing opportunities. Hoped-for greener education pastures.

All of these may have contributed to some larger-than-usual migrations of area school district enrollments for the 2013-2014 school year.

Some of the districts that grew included Olathe, Kansas City, Kan., North Kansas City, Liberty, Grandview and Independence.

One district showed a major drop: Kansas City Public Schools.

On the county level, Johnson County continued a longstanding trend of leading in enrollment growth. Wyandotte County grew the second most, followed by Clay County.

All but one of Johnson County’s six school districts grew. Shawnee Mission dropped by 19 students. As in recent years, the district’s high schools declined slightly in enrollment but its elementary and middle school counts grew.

“The growth, particularly at the elementary level, can be seen across the district and is a positive trend that the district continues to monitor,” said spokeswoman Leigh Anne Neal.

Several public charter schools expanded in Kansas City, increasing their overall K-12 enrollment by 586, from 9,577 to 10,163.

But the increase was connected to only a portion of Kansas City Public Schools’ decline, which fell by 1,591 to 14,118, not including pre-school.

The district improved its report card score with the state, but has remained unaccredited since 2012. The administration believes it has been losing many families in advance of their children entering middle school grades because many were uncomfortable that middle school grades have been kept in the high schools.

But that is changing next year when the district re-opens two middle schools.

In Wyandotte County, Kansas City, Kan., grew by 762 students, the largest increase among area districts. District Chief of Staff David Smith figured that economic and housing factors played a role.

“But we would like to think that the work we are doing to educate kids is also a contributing factor,” he said.

Several districts have seen their recent state scorecards rise, including Grandview, which may account for some growth, Superintendent Ralph Teran said.

“Potential customers from the outside are viewing us more favorably than in the past,” he said.

Homes are coming up for sale, and families with children are moving in, said Independence spokeswoman Nancy Lewis.

“We’re watching that kind of growth in neighborhoods all over the district,” she said.

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