OTTUMWA—The numbers are in and it’s good news for Ottumwa Schools.
Every year on October 1, schools across the state count their students. Districts then spend the next few weeks calculating the certified enrollment, which includes open enrollment in and out, as well as students that have additional weightings, such as special education, migrant, and talented and gifted. This number is used to determine the amount of state funding each school will receive the following year. “Ottumwa Schools saw an increase in the certified enrollment that was double any increase we’ve seen in the past 10 years,” said Superintendent Nicole Kooiker. “This is incredible news for us as we continue to work to engage, educate, and empower every student every day.”
The construction of the Pickwick Early Childhood Center continues to impact the district’s enrollment. Preschool enrollment was up 49 students, for an increase of 21% over last year. The enrollment, 282 four-year-olds, was also the highest number of students served on record. This number includes students who attend classes at partner locations, including Seton and Indian Hills. Enrollment between Pickwick and our two Douma classrooms was 239. “Pickwick has offered our district and community an amazing opportunity for students to receive quality instruction at an early age that provides a foundation for success throughout their educational career,” said Kooiker. “In addition, Pickwick provides families the opportunity for early childhood education that has removed the barriers of transportation, before and after school care, as well as food costs for students. I am so pleased that the school board, district and community has made an investment in early childhood education that will have a lasting impact on our educational system and community for years to come.”
In total, the number of PK-12 students served was up 121, an increase of 2.7%. This represents the largest increase in over 10 years. “For the past few years, one of our big focus areas has been on working to decrease open enrollment out and educating Ottumwa students in Ottumwa,” said Kooiker. “Due to the work of our staff, school board members, and community, we are beginning to see a shift in the trendline. Ottumwa Schools offers so many opportunities for students that other districts cannot offer due to many variables. We need to celebrate the opportunities we provide as well as our success.”
With a strong focus on the number of students open enrolling out in recent years, Ottumwa saw a decrease in growth of 71% from the prior year. This represents the smallest growth of open enrollment out in over 10 years. “While we definitely see this as a win, there is still a lot of room to improve in this area,” said Kooiker. “One concern we’ve heard in the past is about safety. A recent community survey indicated that the majority of the community felt our schools are safe. We have updated entrances in our older buildings; purchased emergency radios in every building; developed a safety plan in collaboration with the Ottumwa Police Department and Wapello County Emergency Management; and implemented an ASPIRE program that can serve a large population of students at Evans and OHS focused on connections, teaching social skills, motivation, and relationship building. Our district also continues to implement and focus on programs and practices such as Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS), trauma informed instruction, and restorative practices.”
The district is encouraged by the strides made around the understanding of cultural proficiency and adverse childhood trauma. “The more we learn and understand as adults, the more successful we will be with our students.”