District 281 Has a Slight Increase in Enrollment

From the sun post;

It’s only 46 students – a 0.4 percent increase – but enrollment is up slightly in Robbinsdale District 281 schools as of Oct. 1. District enrollment is 11,821 students, according to Dennis Beekman, District 281’s executive director of technology. This is the second consecutive year when fall enrollment exceeded prior year levels, he said. Beekman gave his first in a series of three annual reports at an Oct. 17 School Board meeting. He attributed the enrollment increase to a larger kindergarten than last year, more open-enrolled students attending Cooper and Armstrong high schools, and better K-5 retention levels than the last few years, resulting in increased elementary enrollment. Sixty-four more seniors graduated last year than the number of kindergarten students enrolled this fall (867), though this year’s kindergarten class is larger than last year’s.

However, Beekman said a structural decline still is present, driven for years by lower birth rates in the community and by increased school choice options. “There has been a significant decline of 1,800 students over the last 20 years,” Beekman said. “That was a major factor for reorganization and boundary changes in 2009.” Since 2000, the district has closed New Hope and Pilgrim Lane elementary schools and Hosterman and Sandburg middle schools.

“Elementary and middle school facilities are fully utilized and the enrollment in several elementary and middle schools is at its highest level in recent years,” Beekman said.

Elementary school enrollment is 5,271, compared to 5,168 at this time last year.

The largest elementary school this fall, as it has been for several years, is Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion School in New Hope, with an enrollment of 727 students, Beekman said. “We don’t have a lot of excess capacity in grades K-8,” Beekman said. “There is a little more at the high school. Forest [Elementary in Crystal] exceeds capacity. Plymouth Middle School is much closer to capacity than Robbinsdale Middle School.”

Grade nine is the largest, with 1,043 students. Grade six is the smallest, with 833 students. Other classes range from 867 (kindergarten) to 989 (grade 10). Middle school enrollment is at 2,630, compared to 2,687 last year. High school enrollment is 3,920, exactly the same number as last year.

By school, enrollment is as follows: Forest, 686; Lakeview, 427; Meadow Lake, 644; Neill, 571; Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion, 727; Noble, 411; Northport, 574; Sonnesyn, 645; Zachary Lane, 586; Plymouth Middle School, 1,310; Robbinsdale Middle School, 1,320; Cooper High School, 1,918; and Armstrong High School, 2,002.

Five elementary schools have increased enrollment this fall: Forest, Lakeview, Sonnesyn, RSIS and Noble.

Four elementary schools declined in enrollment: Meadow Lake, Neill, Northport, and Zachary Lane. Plymouth Middle School and Cooper High School enrollments decreased; the numbers of students at Robbinsdale Middle School and Armstrong High School declined.

By city, the largest numbers of students come from Crystal, 2,413; followed by New Hope, 2,400; Plymouth, 2,062; Robbinsdale, 1,407; Golden Valley, 996; Brooklyn Park, 848; and Brooklyn Center, 819. Resident student enrollment has increased slightly in Brooklyn Center, Crystal and new Hope, and has declined in Brooklyn Park, Golden Valley and Plymouth.

“The district continues to be more ethnically diverse,” Beekman said, adding that it has increased from 47.8 percent to 49.6 percent minority students district wide. “This is a trend that follows the census patterns in first- and second-ring suburbs in Minneapolis and St. Paul,” he said.

The largest elementary minority enrollment is at Northport in Brooklyn Center, where 83.6 percent of the students are minorities. At Meadow Lake in New Hope, 76.3 percent of the students are minorities. The other nine elementary schools have minority enrollments ranging from a low of 23.7 percent at the Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion School in New Hope, to 58.5 percent at Lakeview Elementary in Robbinsdale.

At the secondary level, Cooper High School has a 60.9 percent minority enrollment, and Armstrong High School has 35.3 percent. “Armstrong had the largest increase,” Beekman said. Middle school minority enrollment is 38.6 at Plymouth Middle School, and 60.2 percent at Robbinsdale Middle School.

“Empty nesters are selling to younger families that are more diverse,” Beekman said. “Twelfth grade is less diverse that incoming kindergartners.” The district’s ethnic profile shows 50.4 percent white students, 28.1 percent black students, 12 percent Hispanic, 7.9 percent Asian, and 1.7 percent American Indian, Beekman said.

The number of students eligible for free or reduced price lunch is 44.9 percent, up 1.6 percent from last year. The number of students eligible for free or reduced lunch is a common means of measuring poverty. “Mobility and poverty increases are directly related to the adverse economic climate and its impact on families,” Beekman said.

At the elementary level, the numbers of students who qualify for free and reduced price lunches ranges from a high of 83.4 percent at Northport in Brooklyn Center and 73.2 percent at Meadow Lake in New Hope, to 10.6 percent at the Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion School in New Hope. At the secondary level, it ranged from 57.1 percent at Robbinsdale Middle School and 53 percent at Cooper to 31.9 percent at Armstrong High School.

The numbers of English Language Learners have increased to 11.4 percent, up .1 percent since 2009-10. “Immigrant trends are similar to the last few years where families are not moving into the community in large numbers because employment opportunities have been limited during the recession,” Beekman said.

The number of English Language Learners students, which totaled 520 in the 1999-2000 school year, increased significantly to 1,441 in 2006, and now is at 11.4 percent (1,343 students); last year it was 11.3 percent. The highest number of ELL students are at Northport, 41.1 percent., followed by 30 percent at Meadow Lake. Robbinsdale Middle School had a large spike in the number of ELL students it serves: from 9.9 percent last year to 14 percent this year.

Beekman noted that 17.3 percent of the district’s students go home to non-English speaking families. Among the 51 different languages spoken in the homes of District 281 students, 8.3 percent speak Spanish, 2.3 percent speak Hmong, and 1.8 percent speak Creolized English.

Mobility, the measurement of how often students transfer in and out of school during the school year, was at 19.4 percent district wide in 2010-11. At the secondary level, it ranged from a high of 33.1 percent at Cooper High School (an increase of more than 8 percent) to 23.2 at Robbinsdale Middle School, 17 at Armstrong High School, and 9.1 at Plymouth Middle School. At the elementary level, the mobility rate ranged from a high of 35.7 percent at Northport to 1 percent at Robbinsdale Spanish Immersion School.

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