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Enrollment down slightly in District 196

Enrollment in District 196 schools is down from the start of the 2011-12 school year according to official numbers recorded Oct. 1.

The district's overall enrollment on Oct. 1 this year was 27,168, a decrease of 236 students from the same date last year. The state of Minnesota uses Oct. 1 enrollment when it distributes funding to districts.

The biggest drop came at the high school level, where enrollment was down 231 students from a year ago. Middle school enrollment was down 65 students and elementary enrollment was up 64 students.

Student information supervisor Kim Reis told school board members Monday the district is looking into the large decline in enrollment at the high school level. She doesn't expect to find big problems, though.

"We don't think that (decline) will continue," she said. "We have no reason to think that isn't just an unusual occurrence."

Rosemount High School was not immune to the high school enrollment drop. The student population at RHS fell by 61 students, from 2,103 to 2,042. That decline dropped RHS from the second-biggest high school in the district to the third biggest behind Eagan, which lost 77 students but still had 2,107 enrolled Oct. 1, and Eastview, which gained 13 students for a total enrollment of 2,085.

Apple Valley remains the smallest of the district's four-year high schools with an enrollment of 1,634.

The picture is different at the middle school level, where Rosemount Middle School gained three students to remain the district's biggest middle school with an enrollment of 1,168 students. Scott Highlands Middle School gained 62 students from 2011 but still has just 867 students. Valley Middle School lost 90 students, the biggest decline at the middle level, for a 2012 enrollment of 825.

Among elementary schools, Rosemount Elementary lost 29 students for a 2012 enrollment of 616 students, Shannon Park Elementary gained 37 students for an enrollment of 812 and Red Pine Elementary lost one student but remains the district's biggest elementary school at 945 students.

Elementary enrollment has been growing steadily in District 196 since it hit a low point in 2007. Reis expects that growth to translate to middle school enrollment, which has held largely steady, in the next few years.

"(Middle school enrollment) looks like it's bouncing across the bottom, but we don't think it's going to go a lot lower," Reis said. "We're going to see that going up pretty soon."

As the district gets smaller, it is also getting more diverse. The district's student population is 71.92 percent white, with the most diverse student population at the elementary level. Reis said 31.68 percent of elementary students are non-white. At the high school level 23.9 percent of students are non-white.

Students who receive free or reduced-price lunches make up 22.5 percent of the district's student population. That is an increase from 8.3 percent 10 years ago.

Overall, Reis said she is happy with the way enrollment numbers match up with the district's projections. Accurate enrollment projections are important for school districts so they can predict state funding levels.

"We're pleased with the models we have used," Reis said.