290 New Students Added to RE-2 Under New Board
After a ten year period of leading the state in declining enrollment among districts with more than 1500 students, the Woodland Park School District has reversed the trend in a stunning fashion. This year it leads Colorado in the percentage of increase in enrollment of any district with greater than 300 students.
The school district has seen significant initiatives after electing a new slate of Directors in the fall of 2021. Teachers received the largest pay increase in district history, a new charter school has added a welcome option for the families of over 300 students, a new superintendent was recently hired, and the Board recently approved updated standards to help guide a long-planned overhaul of the social studies curriculum.
Change is never easy. Braking an enrollment train that has been headed downhill for over a decade was bound to throw sparks. A belligerent opposition minority has attempted to exercise the hecklers veto with disruptive behavior at School Board meetings. Despite the foul language, carefully staged walkouts, and other street theater tactics, the new board persevered. The recently released state enrollment data shows that their commitment to change is paying off.
Increased enrollment is a useful goal in itself as more families are able to find desired educational options within the Ute Pass region. However, there are additional benefits to the community. The 290 additional students registered in the school system represent young families staying in a rapidly aging community. This will help reverse a long term and destabilizing trend that has unbalanced the area’s demographics.
The additional students also represent additional resources spent in the local area. With per pupil funding set by the state at just over $9,000 per student this year, retaining these students in the district added over $2.6 million dollars to the Teller County economy. This revenue stream has created jobs and professional opportunities for local people, reinforcing the retention of families.
While the new school board can reflect with pride on their efforts at stopping and reversing the dangerous enrollment decline, they still have work to do to change direction for a healthy future. The recently completed facilities study revealed school building utilization at an unsustainable 50% and continuing to trend downward over the next five years. There are significant maintenance needs to be addressed in the same time period. Meanwhile, the desire for choice and additional programs, particularly in the area of career & technical education, continues to grow. Crafting a secure future for the Woodland Park School District will continue to demand innovation and fortitude, but it is clear that this journey is off to a good start.