Steamboat school district enrolls 2,623 students, 5 years ahead of prediction

Tom Ross

Enrollment in the Steamboat Springs School district reached 2,623 this fall, surpassing the latest estimate that it would likely reach 2,618 by 2021.
John F. Russell

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The official 2017-18 enrollment numbers for the Steamboat Springs School District are in, and the year-over-year growth stands out.

The student body grew by a net 97 students this fall, to 2,623 compared to 2,526 on Oct. 1, 2016. Superintendent Brad Meeks told Steamboat Today earlier this school year that he had seen a surprising 200 new students enroll this fall, and that was on the heels of a burst of new enrollees at mid-semester.

Meeks attributes some of the growth this fall to the phenomenon of location-neutral workers.

“I was hearing so many anecdotal examples of families moving in from across the country, and all of a sudden we have 200 new students,” Meeks said Monday. “What I’ve been seeing is that there’s more going on here than the birth rate. It seems like it’s families moving to town with maybe their careers established and they may have one to three older children.”

This fall’s enrollment, including a record 240 ninth-graders, already surpasses the projection that Jim Looney, planner for the Denver Public Schools, forecast just a year ago when he predicted district enrollment would grow by 92 students to 2,618 in the autumn of 2021. 

To be fair to Looney, he cautioned local officials a year ago that the purpose of his forecast was not to peg the growth in the district five years out. Instead, it was to point out the factors that could influence changes in enrollment so that the district could prepare.

“When one of these variable changes, you can go into the report and account for that,” he said. “Adjustments can be made, depending on how the variables change.”

Looney was asked by Community Committee for Education — CC4E — to revisit the district’s demography report and said the two biggest variables affecting school district enrollment would be an expected “baby bust” in the wake of the Great Recession and the unpredictability of the impact of enrollment numbers at the Mountain Village Montessori Charter School, which opened in fall 2016.

The Montessori school enrolled 148 students this fall, including 21 fourth-graders, 16 fifth-graders and 12 sixth-graders – almost 50 potential high schoolers, depending on the churn rate.

Meeks said Steamboat school district’s unexpected growth in enrollment didn’t crush his budget, because he and Finance Director Mark Rydberg budgeted conservatively and each of the new students brings new revenue with them under the “per-pupil funding” that is part of the state’s school finance formula.

“Mark’s got to go back in and balance out where we were on guessing how many classes to provide per grade and where we were off,” Meeks said.

And Meeks knows well that school enrollment could still increase this year. Steamboat Today reported in January that the district had grown by 54 new students who came from 13 states during the winter break.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

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