Eastern Idaho school districts report mixed trends in year-over-year student enrollment numbers with some districts reporting significant increases and others seeing little to no growth.
Save for Bonneville Joint School District 93 and Jefferson Joint School District 251, most districts from Blackfoot to Madison have the same student enrollments as a year ago, public records requests by the Post Register show. The Post Register analyzed and compared the total enrollment numbers (kindergarten to 12th grade) of Jan. 10, 2018 and Jan. 10, 2019.
Student enrollment fluctuates throughout the year. Idaho’s statewide enrollment increased by 1.3 percent (3,903 students) last year.
The numbers show five eastern Idaho school districts saw increases in enrollment from a year ago, with three of the larger increases in enrollment coming from the Bonneville, Jefferson and Firth school districts.
Jefferson School District 251, which has grown about 800 students over the course of four years, reached 6,159 students as of Jan. 10 — an increase of 232 students from a year ago. Bonneville saw an increase of 338 students from a year ago, the most of any local school district.
Bonneville’s total enrollment was 12,895 on Jan. 11.
Firth School District 59 saw a 47-student increase from a year ago.
Most local school districts saw little change in enrollment, though.
Idaho Falls District 91 saw an increase of 10 students from a year ago (10,078 to 10,088). Shelley School District saw an increase of 28 students from a year ago.
“Enrollment has been flat,” D91 spokesperson Margaret Wimborne said. “Compared with other districts, which have had a lot of growth due to new neighborhoods and subdivisions ... We’re seeing new houses and subdivisions being built which will, ultimately, lead to some growth, too, but for the last few years it’s been flat.”
Madison School District 321 saw a decrease of 22 students (5,241 on Nov. 2, 2017; 5,219 in 2018). Madison School District only counts enrollment four times a year, according to its administrative office. Most district offices check enrollment daily.
“I think the main thing that affected us, and our demographics, is the BYU-I Pathways program. It hit us pretty hard,” Madison School District Superintendent Geoffrey Thomas said. “It took about 60 students away from us.”
Some families had moved to Salt Lake City since BYU-I’s Pathways program announced its relocation in February 2017, Thomas said.
Blackfoot School District 55 saw a decrease of 121 students from a year ago.
Eastern Idaho is one of the fastest growing areas in the country, according to numerous reports, but that growth is only being seen in certain areas, D93 superintendent Chuck Shackett said.
“It’s only in pockets,” Shackett said when asked why certain school districts are seeing more growth than others.
Shackett said District 93 has seen increased population due to more building permits and lower tax rates in the county in comparison to Idaho Falls School District 91 or other city-centric districts.
District 93’s enrollment has gone from 9,108 in 2008 to about 12,913 in 2019, according to the district’s data, and is expected to reach 16,000 to 17,000 students by 2030.
Shackett credits the area’s quality of life for much of that growth.
“You see a lot of students that graduate, go to college and start their careers and families and they bring them back here,” Shackett said.