More Colorado public school students are seeking out tuition-free online classes and charter school education, according to the state's Department of Education.
The state's 2015-2016 fall enrollment numbers were shared in a press release with statistics showing that online education is growing. Over the past 10 years, the state's online enrollment has increased 201 percent — that's 18,661 students, or 2.1 percent of the public school population.
More pupils are registering for public schools in general as well. Preschool through 12th grade enrollment increased by 10,105 students from 2014, totaling 899,112, writes Debbie Kelly of the Gazette. This is an increase of 1.1 percent, though it's down from the previous year's increase of 1.4 percent. The average rate of statewide growth for the past 20 years is also 1.4 percent.
At the Guided Online Academic Learning (GOAL) Academy, which has grown every year since its opening in 2008, enrollment went up by 811 students in the past year. The student population now totals 4,070. According to the Associated Press, it's grown the most of any school in the Pikes Peak region.
GOAL's interim executive director, Kris Enright, said that he was surprised at the sudden growth.
We really didn't do any marketing and weren't anticipating the growth. Our growth reflects a statewide trend of students who are not being successful in their local high school and are in need of something different.
Online education in Colorado has seen steady growth going back more than a decade. With that growth and the responsibility of serving students, the expectations have increased as well. We welcome the opportunity to do a great job.
Students of GOAL, which is headquartered in Pueblo and authorized by the Falcon School District 49, take classes online and can visit one of 33 centers for assistance with assignments and testing. Additional staff and counselors had to be hired to meet the demand of the new additional students.
The school district with the highest increase in enrollment was the rural town of Byers, about 30 miles east of Aurora, with an increase of 893 students or 41.7 percent. Many of these are online students, reports Quincy Snowdon of the Aurora Sentinel.
The five largest school districts in the state are Douglas County, Jefferson County, Denver, Cherry Creek, and Aurora. The 15 largest districts make up 68 percent of the total public school enrollment.
Denver Public Schools has the highest student population in the state at more than 90,000 students. It also had the highest number of new students with 1,396. The Charter School Institute, a non-district authorizer that oversees 35 charter schools, had the second-highest increase, with 1,027 students and a 7.3 increase over its previous year.
According to Jenny Brundin of Colorado Public Radio, the school district with the largest decrease in population was Adams 50, which dropped by 6.5 percent.