Enrollment tumbles in Ely

Only 28 students expected in kindergarten in fall; K-12 total dips from 596 to 558

by Tom Coombe -

A small incoming kindergarten class, combined with attrition during the recently-completed school year, has eaten up nearly all of the enrollment gains the Ely School District has made the last three years.
Projections released Monday, at the regular school board meeting, show an anticipated K-12 enrollment of 558 students.
That’s 38 students less than enrollment of 596 reported last September, and a decline of 19 students from the end of this school year.
The most significant factor is one of the smallest incoming kindergarten classes in district history.
Elementary principal Anne Oelke told the board that 28 kindergarten students are currently expected to begin school in the fall.
“All of a sudden, we have a huge dip here,” said Oelke.
This year, 46 kindergarteners were enrolled at the end of the year and the first-grade group had 57 students.
In the elementary school, 293 students were enrolled at the start of the 2017-18 school year, 287 were reported on the final day and current estimates show 263 students expected when the 2018-19 school year begins.
In the Memorial Building, which houses the middle (grades 6-8) and high (9-12) schools), enrollment went from 303 in September to 290 at the end of the year.
It’s expected to rebound to 295 students in September.
That number could yet climb, given transfers into the district as well the arrival of three foreign exchange students.
Principal Megan Anderson said the district would welcome exchange students from China, Germany and Ukraine in 2018-19.
Since 2007, the district’s total enrollment has ranged from a high of 596 at the start of the 2017-18 term to a low of 538 (2009), with enrollment increasing slightly in seven of the last eight years.
Since 2012, fall enrollments has been as follows: 559, 560, 549, 565, 582, 596.
But while enrollment in Ely has stabilized and is back on the upswing, totals are a far cry from enrollments of 1,500 or more recorded during peak periods of the 1960s and 1970s.
The massive drop from the mid-1990s through 2009 resulted in a tumultuous period for the district, including financial difficulties and downsizing of staff.