Austin enrollment up 5%; Public schools population grows by more than 240 students in K-12

Published 7:45 am Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Austin Public Schools experienced a 5 percent increase in student enrollment this fall, and some pupils are still coming in the door, according to Corey Haugen, Director of Research Evaluation and Assessment for the district.

According to a count taken on Friday, Sept. 8, there were 4,981 K-12 students in classrooms, compared to 4,738 a year ago, an increase of 243 students. Haugen delivered the numbers to the Austin School Board on Monday during its regular meeting.

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If you include Early Childhood and pre-kindergarten students, the overall student population rose to 5,230, compared to 4,950 a year ago,
a difference of 280 students.

It is the highest number of students housed here in at least 15 years, said Haugen.

“Just from Friday to Monday, we had 21 more students come in,” he said.

Traditionally, numbers are greatest during the first part of the year, and then begin to drop off.

However, that trend reversed a year ago, when the district continued to pick up students throughout the year, he said.

Many of the students are from other countries, drawn to Austin for jobs from cities that have similar industries, such as Worthington and Willmar. There was a 3.8 percent increase in non-white enrollment, today at 48.5 percent.

The language demographic has also changed. About 67 percent of the students speak English as their primary home language, while 19.5 percent speak Spanish, and another 13.67 percent make up the 46 other languages spoken at the school. There were 44 languages spoken in the district at this time a year ago.

The largest portion of the 13.67 percent are students who speak Karen (126) and Karenni (145) — dialects spoken in Burma — which supplanted the Sudanese languages of Anuak and Nuer as the larger numbers behind English and Spanish.

“I think Austin is looked upon as culturally inviting … that people will help you here, and that we embrace our diversity,” Haugen said.

Some of the biggest student increases came at Woodson Kindergarten Center (from 328 to 391), I.J. Holton Intermediate School (from 714 to 781), and at the high school (from 1,378 to 1,444).

As numbers grow, so do other services. Haugen said 15.4 percent of the students receive special education services; 15.7 percent of students receive English Language (EL) instruction.

Five more teachers were hired, said Superintendent of Schools Dave Krenz, to accommodate the increases. While some of the elementary schools are starting to feel the pressure from the growing numbers, the other buildings with large increases — the high school and I.J. Holton are not full.

Krenz said the high school, a large complex, has more flexibility in how it houses students.

Haugen noted that I.J. Holton was built to house as many as 800 students, so it still has room.

Staff, said Krenz, will continue to monitor facility needs if numbers continue to climb.