First-grade students at South Routt Elementary School on Aug. 22 put up peace signs during art class. The South Routt and Hayden school districts are projecting increased enrollment for the first time since 2008.

Photo by Scott Franz

First-grade students at South Routt Elementary School on Aug. 22 put up peace signs during art class. The South Routt and Hayden school districts are projecting increased enrollment for the first time since 2008.

Hayden and South Routt school districts projecting enrollment gains

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— If the numbers hold next month, the Hayden and South Routt school districts will have increased their enrollments for the first time in four years.

South Routt Superintendent Scott Mader said Monday his district has 414 students enrolled, 24 more than the 390 the district counted in October 2011.

“It's pretty nice to see this thing turn the corner and start inching up again,” Mader said. “That probably speaks somewhat to our economy, and somewhat to some of our programs that families like here, like our (vocational agriculture) program.”

In Hayden, administrators are projecting an enrollment increase of 18 students over last year.

Hayden School District Finance Director Jnl Linsacum said the elementary school has 24 new students, the middle school has 11 new students and the high school has six new students.

“Our new students seem to be from people moving into the area, which is good news for our economy,” Linsacum said.

Routt County school enrollment by district

South Routt enrollment totals were not available before the 2001-02 school year

The enrollment gains are a sign of relief for the two districts that have lost thousands of dollars worth of state funding in recent years because of their shrinking enrollments. The state of Colorado funds public schools on a per-pupil basis, so more students equates to more money for school districts.

Mader said as his district saw more of its students move away from the area or elect to attend school in Steamboat, its educators worked to reverse the trend by enhancing their academic programs.

“You want to do something really important in the district academically so you attract kids,” Mader said. “But part of it is also the economy. So you've also got to go out and look for money. You really try to get innovative and aggressive, because you've got to do something to maintain your programs and keep your teachers (with less state funding).”

In the years they experienced declining enrollment, the Hayden and Soroco school districts passed property tax increases to provide additional financial support to their schools. South Routt also embarked on a three-year quest to earn the state's highest academic accreditation rating, a feat it got close to achieving this year.

The enrollment gains at the rural districts this year follow an even larger influx of students into the Steamboat Springs School District, which currently has a record 2,312 students enrolled.

And the larger district continues to attract a significant number of students who are living in south and western Routt County.

Steamboat administrative assistant Deb Ginesta reported Monday that 112 students — 49 from Hayden and 63 from South Routt — are attending school in Steamboat this year instead of in their home district.

The open enrollment roster includes six new students, she said.

Routt County's three school districts will do a final count of their students next month on the state's officials student count date. The number of students enrolled on that date will dictate funding levels for the school year.

The districts' funded pupil count will be lower than their actual enrollment numbers because Colorado public school districts don't receive full funding for kindergarten, preschool and part-time students.

Steamboat enrollment

Interdistrict transfer information was not available before the 2009-10 school year

To reach Scott Franz, call 970-871-4210 or email scottfranz@SteamboatToday.com

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