TWIN FALLS — Twin Falls’ two newest elementary schools have grown even faster than expected.
Rapid growth isn’t uncommon for new schools, Twin Falls School District superintendent Brady Dickinson said, especially since the two campuses are in the high-growth northeast and northwest areas of the city.
“They’ve exceeded growth projections just in two years they’ve been open,” he said.
South Hills Middle School opened in August to help address rapid enrollment growth.
The school district, which has more than 9,400 students, has seen 2-4 percent growth each year. But that same trend isn’t being felt across Idaho.
Idaho’s public school enrollment still expanded this year in elementary through high schools, but at a slower rate than previous years. Here in the Magic Valley, though, many school districts are seeing growth rates hold steady.
The Idaho State Department of Education released preliminary fall enrollment numbers Monday to the Times-News in response to a data request. It’s for the first Friday in November.
In total, the state has 299,368 students — up 581 students from last year.
It may sound like a big gain, but it’s less than years past. Over the last decade, Idaho schools have typically gained a few thousand students per year.
Possible reasons behind the enrollment slowdown this year are unclear. No one at the Idaho State Department of Education would comment about the trend.
Here in the Magic Valley, more companies are coming into the area and some existing ones are expanding operations. That has led to a boom in school enrollment.
Several school districts have opened new schools or added classroom wings within the last few years. Along with the new Twin Falls schools, John V. Evans Elementary School opened in Burley in August, and Kimberly is constructing a new elementary school slated to open in June.
The Twin Falls School District has 280 more students than last year, as of the fourth Friday in September, which is 3 percent growth.
Dickinson doesn’t anticipate the growth will speed up or slow down, but “we don’t have a crystal ball,” he said. “We take our indicators from what’s happening in the community.”
New subdivisions are planned in south Twin Falls, Dickinson said, which will raise questions about capacity at Oregon Trail Elementary School. It’s the only elementary school in the area and will become crowded “sooner rather than later,” he said.
He also expects northwest Twin Falls, served by Rock Creek Elementary, to continue to grow.
If a 3-4 percent yearly growth rate holds steady, the school district will likely be five years out from needing another elementary school, Dickinson said.
“We’re in really good shape with middle schools for a long time,” he said, and he doesn’t expect high schools to be full until 2030.
Here are the enrollment trends five other school districts are seeing:
Jerome School District has 4,027 students in preschool through 12th grades, up 72 compared with November 2016.
For the last five years, the district has grown by about 100 students per year.
Superintendent Dale Layne said he expects the growth to remain about the same — between 75 and 100 students per year — for the next two years and it could level off a bit after that.
“But of course, that all depends on business and housing and all that kind of thing,” Layne said.
He said he met with Jerome city officials Monday and learned new home construction is still underway, but not at the same pace as Twin Falls.
Cassia County has 5,585 students, as of Nov. 21. That’s a 73-student increase compared with the same week last year.
The school district has gained 203 students since 2014.
Pam Teeter, an administrative assistant for the Cassia County School District, said she doesn’t think the growth will slow down anytime soon since new businesses and families are coming to Burley.
It’s not a surprise the school district’s enrollment is growing, said school district spokeswoman Debbie Critchfield. In fact, “it happened a little more quickly than what we anticipated.”
The Burley and Declo areas are seeing most of the growth, she said, largely due to economic development. But even Albion has seen its enrollment nearly double, from 26 students in 2009 to 49 this year.
Oakley schools saw a bubble of students a few years ago and numbers have since dropped off a little, but they’re still higher than historically. Enrollment in Raft River schools has remained flat.
Critchfield said she has heard from real estate agents that there are people who’d like to move into smaller communities such as Oakley, but there’s a lack of housing inventory.
Hansen School District has 350 students, a number that hasn’t changed much over the years.
Enrollment increased a little this year, but the school district has a “very transient population,” with students coming and going frequently, Superintendent Kristin Beck said.
Blaine County School District has an estimated 3,470 students, up 30 from November 2016.
The school district had a big dip in enrollment during the 2011-12 school year, but has slowly seen numbers increase since 2013.
Buhl School District has 1,355 students and typically gains 25 to 30 each year. Three years ago, there was a much larger influx: more than 100 additional students.
“We expect the growth rate to remain about the same,” Superintendent Ron Anthony said, unless a new business moves into the area.
Another factor, he said, is “we don’t have the housing for people to get a big growth.”