Declining Enrollment in Denver

Published: December 15, 2021

RootED partnered with Eschbacher Consulting to take a deep dive into enrollment data to better understand the overall causes of low enrollment in Denver. Brian Eschbacher is the former Denver Public Schools Executive Director of Planning and Enrollment. You can read more about his local and national work at Eschbacher Consulting.

The report overviews:

  • City-wide factors impacting the student population
  • Enrollment trends to neighboring districts and peer cities nationwide
  • Connection of city-wide student population to school-level enrollment
  • Emerging elementary and middle school enrollment sustainability insights

Key Denver Enrollment Insights

  • Elementary enrollment has declined more than 5,000 students since 2016, the equivalent of 17 average-sized elementary schools.
  • Declines are primarily due to fewer children living in Denver, a result of the lowest birth rates in U.S. history combined with the among highest housing prices in Denver’s history. These factors are largely outside DPS’s control.
  • Declining student populations are a trend also seen in nearly all of Denver’s suburban school districts as well as peer urban districts across the county.
  • Enrollment is forecast to decline another 4,000 students, with declines impacting elementary (~2,000), middle (~2,300) and will soon start to impact high schools.
  • The west side and near downtown will be heavily impacted. Given more than half of families participate in a form of school choice, lower demand schools will also be particularly impacted by fewer students.
  • To meet sustainable enrollment levels given enrollment trends, there likely need to be a sizable number (20+) of consolidations, primarily elementary schools on the west side and closer to downtown. Extensive community engagement will need to occur to support tough decision-making and ensure vulnerable students are able to access higher-quality schools.

* The report will soon be available in Spanish.

Common Questions on Declining Enrollment in Denver

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