Despite continuing to deal with pandemic-related procedures and mandates, many area schools saw increases in student enrollment.
The Waterloo school district has 2,728 students enrolled this year, which is an increase of 62 students from last academic year.
Waterloo Superintendent of Schools Brian Charron said the district’s enrollment has been fluctuating around the 2,700 mark “for a long time,” and that this year’s larger-than-normal kindergarten class helped bring the district over that mark.
This year’s kindergarten class at Zahnow Elementary is 221, whereas it was 197 last year.
Zahnow (grades pre-K-1) has 468 students this year, Rogers Elementary (grades 2-3) has 369, Gardner Elementary (grades 4-5) counts 377, Waterloo Junior High School (grades 6-8) reports 634 and Waterloo High School has 880 students.
Charron said that overall, he believes the district’s growth reflects that of the community.
“I attribute this increase to (the) gradual growth of our community,” Charron said. “There are always new homes being built and we hear often that people are moving here because of the school district, that they want their kids to go to school here. We anticipate that slow growth will continue.”
He said the pandemic may have had a “slight impact” on last year’s numbers, but not this year’s.
“I think that even though we are still dealing with lots of issues in relation to the pandemic, I think our enrollment at this point has no reflection on the pandemic,” Charron said.
In addition to more students, Charron noted the district is seeing more staff this year. He said many of these new faces were hired to help address learning loss or to keep class sizes small.
Unlike Waterloo, Columbia has a slight decrease in enrollment from the previous academic year. Last year, the district counted 1,978, whereas this year it has 1,952 students enrolled.
“We had a large class of seniors graduate and roughly the same size kindergarten class come in,” Columbia Superintendent of Schools Chris Grode explained.
He said some of the decrease in student enrollment is due to the pandemic, yet he said most of this occurred last year. He said roughly 1 percent of enrollment, or around 18 students, left the district due to the pandemic.
“People went to other schools across the river that were in-person while we were remote,” Grode said.
As the Republic-Times previously reported, Columbia also had hired some additional teachers due to the pandemic.
Grode did not provide a breakdown of each school’s enrollment. The schools are Eagleview Elementary (grades pre-K-1), Parkview Elementary (grades 2-4), Columbia Middle School (grades 5-8) and Columbia High School.
Valmeyer Superintendent Eric Frankford reported a total of 354 students enrolled at Valmeyer Community Unit School District 3, which is lower than the pre-pandemic total of 392 in September 2019.
Of this year’s enrollment, 230 students are in grades pre-K-8 and the remaining 124 are high school students. Sophomores account for the largest class in the district with 35 students, and pre-K is the smallest with 14 students.
Gibault Catholic High School saw an increase in enrollment, with a total of 179 students attending this year.
Kelly Day, the school’s director of enrollment and student experience, reported freshmen make up the largest class this year with 55 students. Sophomores make up the second largest class.
Therefore, she expects enrollment will continue to climb in the next few years.
Day said the school saw a 6.5 percent increase in enrollment, and contributes this figure to the school’s previous pandemic response.
“The pandemic caused some families to transfer into Gibault because we were in the building five days a week for full days,” Day said. “We have been doing e-learning for eight years and our teachers were prepared to pivot between in-person learning and e-learning as needed. We did not lose any families to homeschooling.”
While Ss. Peter & Paul Catholic School Principal Lori Matzenbacher said a few families decided to homeschool because of the pandemic, the school’s enrollment increased.
“Our enrollment did increase some from last year, with several families joining us this year remarking on how well we did with having in-person learning all year long last year,” Matzenbacher said.
This year, SPPCS enrollment is 240. Last year, Matzenbacher reported 234 students.
Immaculate Conception School Principal David Gregson saw a warm welcome his first year at the school as 11 new students joined him. Gregson succeeds longtime ICS Principal Mike Kish, who retired.
This year, ICS reports 401 students compared to last year’s total of 390.
Like Gibault, Gregson attributes this enrollment increase to ICS maintaining in-person learning last year.
“I believe the fact that ICS was able to keep the doors open all year last year may have an impact on the enrollment for this year,” Gregson said, adding he does not know of any families that left ICS for “any type of alternative schooling.”
This year, the Dupo School District is witnessing a decrease of 30 students.
At the end of the last academic year, the district had 988 students enrolled. Now that figure is 958.
The largest drop was seen at the elementary (grades pre-K-6) level, as this year’s 536 is compared to last year’s 567. Junior high (grades 7-8) and senior high (grades 9-12) saw slight decreases. Their enrollment this year is 154 and 268, respectively.