Monroe County’s schools saw fluctuating enrollment this year, with the majority of schools seeing slight decreases in enrollment.
The Waterloo School District has 2,666 students enrolled to date this year, which is 30 fewer pupils than last year.
Waterloo Superintendent Brian Charron said the main reason for the drop is the district graduated 229 students last year and added 197 for kindergarten.
That kindergarten class is larger than the previous year, but not enough to make up for the large graduating class.
“Enrollment is stable in the sense that we graduated a large class then took in a larger class at kindergarten,” Charron said. “We always have these little fluctuations due to a large class graduating or a small class graduating. I continue to believe there’s a trend of gradual enrollment increases over time due to new construction and families moving to Waterloo. But everything’s up in the air this year with COVID.”
At Zahnow Elementary (grades pre-K-1), there are 412 students, at Rogers Elementary (grades 2-3), there are 385, at Gardner Elementary (grades 4-5), there are 356, at Waterloo Junior High School (grades 6-8) there are 657 and at Waterloo High School there are 856.
Charron said about six students left the district for home-schooling or private school that he is aware of, but he said that number is negligible.
“We didn’t even look to see if that was a factor,” he said.
The Columbia School District has 1,874 students enrolled so far this school year, a decrease of 84 students from last year.
“Changes in enrollment happen in districts and are often cyclical,” Columbia Superintendent Chris Grode explained. “Right now we have had some larger classes graduating and are experiencing smaller numbers of students in our earlier grades. This will change over time.”
Eagleview Elementary School (grades pre-K-1) has 269 students, Parkview Elementary (grades 2-4) has 436, Columbia Middle School (grades 5-8) has 560 and Columbia High School has 609.
Prior to the school district switching to starting the year with only remote learning, 293 students had selected that option. The district had 20 students enroll from private school or home-schooling this year, while 38 transferred to either of those settings.
In addition to Grode, Robert Dugan took over as principal of Parkview this year and April Becherer is principal of Eagleview. Previously those administrators worked as assistant principal and principal of both schools, respectively.
Valmeyer Superintendent Eric Frankford did not provide school enrollment numbers, saying it was too early to say because the enrollment figures are not official until the end of the month.
“The numbers are in flux right now because of people being remote, people deciding they want to home-school instead of being in-person,” he said. “I don’t know if this is a year when we can do a historical, longitudinal study of enrollment trends. It’s a different year.”
Last year, Valmeyer had 392 pupils enrolled at this point in the year.
Gibault Catholic High School’s enrollment dropped slightly this year after the school graduated its largest class in history this summer.
There are currently 170 students enrolled in the school, but principal Steven Kidd said that number will increase to about 200 when international students arrive.
“For this year, our enrollment works great,” Kidd said. “A lot of the larger schools do not have the space or ability to get their entire population in at one time and social distance properly. We have had an incredibly smooth start so far and the students are just happy to be back in school.”
Gibault did not see a large influx of students coming from public school this year. About 10 percent of Gibault students are learning entirely remotely.
Immaculate Conception School in Columbia’s enrollment rose by nine compared to this time last year, as the school has 388 students.
“We picked up some great students, and they all seem to feel welcomed,” ICS Principal Mike Kish said.
The school has 14 new students, but Kish said it could have had more.
“We had many requests but only had room for a few due to safe distancing,” he explained. “This is the first year we ever had to turn students away.”
The school’s number of students using remote learning fluctuates, as those who must quarantine after being exposed to COVID-19 use remote learning for the duration of their quarantine.
Kish said the school year has been going well so far, though he said students and staff miss community-building activities like All-School Mass and buddy programs.
“Parent cooperation has been great this year, and students have been even better,” Kish said. “Honest reporting is the key to a successful cohort program. It’s education in the ‘50s again but so much better than ‘alone at home.’ We have actually gained efficiency in the cohort model due to no hall transit, scheduled restroom breaks and better time on task. It still stinks, but it is the price we pay to be one-to-one. The advantage of being a small school allows us to make this work.”
Like its Columbia counterpart, Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School in Waterloo’s enrollment increased.
It has 234 students this year and welcomed 13 new families. Of its students, 14 have started school fully remote.
“We are excited about our enrollment for this school year, especially under the circumstances, and we are even more excited to be able to provide in-person instruction, with a remote learning option, for all of our school families,” SPPCS Principal Lori Matzenbacher said. “We are looking forward to continuing to provide a safe, healthy and supportive learning environment for our students.”
The Dupo School District’s enrollment dropped almost imperceptibly this year, with 1,010 students enrolled this year. That is down five from last year.
Bluffview Elementary (grades pre-K-6) has 564 students, Dupo Junior High School (grades 7-8) has 162 students and Dupo High School has 279 students.
About 39 percent of the district’s students opted for entirely remote learning.
“Overall, our numbers are historically consistent but I would like to see a steady increase,” Dupo Superintendent Kelly Carpenter said. “Our teachers are amazing and continually work to meet the needs of all students.”