While enrollment continues to decrease, district still graduates about 3,000 kids annually
by Sue Austreng
Well, the numbers are in and it turns out Anoka-Hennepin School District is still the biggest district in the state.
The total student count taken Oct. 1 shows 38,678 students currently enrolled in District 11’s preK-12 schools – that’s 499 more students than are enrolled in St. Paul schools.
“When you count apples to apples, we’re still the largest,” said Superintendent Dennis Carlson. “The goal is to graduate kids and no one comes close to the 3,000 kids we graduate each year,” he said.
While District 11 is still the state’s largest, the enrollment count continues to decrease. This year 412 fewer students attend District 11 schools compared to last year’s count.
Those declining numbers are due in part to the number of charter schools opening in the area, said Neil Klund-Schubert, principal on special assignment who delivered the enrollment report at the school board’s Oct. 22 meeting.
“We are still declining, but at a lower and lower rate,” he said.
In fact, kindergarten numbers are stabilizing and the middle school count decreased by only 10 students from the previous year.
Detailed student count
Students attending Anoka-Hennepin’s 24 elementary schools total 16,181.
Middle school totals show 8,634 students attending the district’s six middle schools.
A total of 11,943 students are enrolled in Anoka-Hennepin’s five high schools.
Those attending the district’s alternative and special education programs total 1,137.
For the Secondary Technical Education Program (STEP), there are 741 students enrolled.
Ethnicity numbers show 22.22 percent of Anoka-Hennepin students are non-white. That number compares to 21.88 percent non-white students last year and includes 1.38 percent native American, 6.59 percent Asian, 4.08 percent Hispanic and 10.17 percent black.
District totals for ESL students (or English language learners) are 2,438 or 6.63 percent on Oct. 1. That number is also an increase as last year’s total was 2,364.
The economic indicator (number of students receiving free or reduced lunch) this year is 12,520 or 34.06 percent of the total student population.
“We’ve doubled every decade in the poverty numbers,” said Carlson, noting that in 2002 the free and reduced lunch numbers reflected 17.45 percent of the total student population.
Numbers to dollars
The actual Oct. 1 count of 38,678 students in Anoka-Hennepin schools show 19 more students than was originally projected.
“With 38,000 students, to be off by only 19 kids – that’s absolutely remarkable,” said Carlson, noting that school funding is based on pupil counts.
“This number drives everything in our budget,” Carlson said. “If you’re wrong (with your projected numbers) you’re millions of dollars off.”
Chairman Tom Heidemann also recognized the importance of accurate enrollment projections.
“You do just an excellent job getting so close every year,” Heidemann said to Klund-Schubert, data coordinator Mary James and chief technology officer Dr. Joel VerDuin, the team which put together the estimated enrollment projection.