Five takeaways from Colorado’s choice registration numbers

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Colorado students crossed school district boundaries a little more than usual during the pandemic school year, according to enrollment data.

Colorado’s open enrollment laws allow students to enroll in any school or district, even if they do not live within that school’s attendance limits – although that choice may be subject to l ‘available space.

Over the course of a school year with many students working remotely and great variability in the amount and quality of classroom and distance learning, enrollment patterns have changed. Many students never enrolled in schools and some who did did not show up for classes.

Were more Colorado families willing to cross the district boundaries this year? Chalkbeat analyzed state registration data to find out more.

Here are the main lessons from our analysis:

Slightly more students have enrolled across district boundaries this school year than before, but most have followed previous movement patterns.

In the past five years statewide, about 10% of students enrolled in a district that was not theirs, although that proportion has slowly increased. In the 2020-21 school year, it rose to 12%. This represents an increase of 9%, a larger increase than in previous years.

It hasn’t changed much, however, where the students go. Districts that already had a high number of students outside the district had even more this school year, and districts that generally lost a lot of students to other districts have continued to see it.

Check the map below to see the percentage of students in a district who come from outside and the percentage of those who leave. The map also allows you to switch to see the change from the previous school year to identify districts that experienced larger changes during the pandemic.

Multi-district online schools have been great magnets

After the start of the pandemic, most school districts created online or virtual learning versions, but a handful of districts were already hosting large online schools that attracted students from across the state. Overall, 13 of the 18 districts with these schools, known as multi-district online schools, experienced growth in student choice as a percentage of their total enrollment.

The average percentage of students exercising their choice to attend districts with multi-district online schools was 33.1% this school year, up from 29.5% the year before. This is a larger jump than the average “choice of entry” to districts without multi-district online schools. Among the districts with these online schools, some of the biggest jumps have been in the districts of Durango, Mapleton and Byers.

Colorado Department of Education staff also told the State Board of Education that requests to open these types of schools have increased.

Top 10 Districts with the Highest Increase in Non-District Students

The 10 districts that have seen the fastest growth in students from outside the district are spread across the state, but only one district, Mapleton, is in the Denver metro area. Mapleton officials point out that many of their outside students are enrolled in the district’s multi-district online school, Connections Academy. But even without these numbers, the district has a high percentage of students from other districts.

District, Annual increase in the percentage of incoming students:

District Percent increase
District Percent increase
Mountain valley 55.47%
Mapleton 17.67%
Durango 17.67%
Vilas 72%
Byers 12.39%
Julesbourg 9.60%
Bethune 8.11%
Reorganized primero 7.82%
Pritchett 6.67%
Dolores 5.30%

The top 10 districts with the largest increase in the number of students leaving for other districts

One of the districts with the highest percentage of school leavers, the Mountain Valley School District, also recorded one of the biggest jumps in the percentage of school leavers from outside. The district started the school year remotely and pushed back its hybrid plan at least once, eventually returning to in-person learning in late fall.

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District Percent increase
District Percent increase
Sangre de Cristo School District 18.93%
Moffat County School District 16.03%
Béthune school district 15.46%
Mountain Valley School District 12.20%
Reorganized Hoehne School District 10.39%
Reorganized school district Primero 8.01%
Weld County School District RE-1 7.91%
Garfield County School District 7.67%
Pritchett School District 7.55%
North Park School District 7.11%

Among the metropolitan areas:

Among the 15 school districts in the metro area, only two saw significant changes in the percentage of students coming from outside the district. One was Mapleton, where outside district enrollment jumped, and Sheridan, where outside enrollment students declined. The percentage of students leaving school elsewhere changed slightly more than those who “chose” the 15 districts.

One-year changes in the choice of enrollment in the districts of the metropolitan area

District Change of choice in Change of choice
District Change of choice in Change of choice
Adams 12 Five Star Schools 0.53% 2.27%
Adams County School District 14 0.32% 0.39%
Aurora Public Schools -0.31% 0.21%
Boulder Valley School District 0.42% 0.57%
Cherry Creek School District -0.94% 0.49%
Denver County School District 0.34% 0.39%
Douglas County School District -0.97% 1.94%
Englewood School District -0.40% 0.42%
Jefferson County School District -0.22% 1.04%
Littleton School District -0.63% 1.96%
Mapleton School District 17.67% 4.31%
School District 27J 0.35% 1.61%
Sheridan School District -3.60% 0.89%
Saint-Vrain Valley School District -0.03% 1.30%
Westminster Public School District 0.35% 1.00%


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