Growth, decline, fluctuation of a district

In the 1999-2000 school year, one year before Lucas Meier, senior, entered kindergarten, the Hopkins Public School District reached its peak enrollment.

More than eight-thousand five-hundred students were enrolled throughout the district.

Meier has always lived within the boundaries of the Hopkins District but has not always attended Hopkins schools.

Since the year Meier began education, our school district has seemed to follow his lead- by the time he re-enrolled in HHS for his senior year, the district had lost 1,690 students.

That means an average loss of roughly one-hundred twenty students per year, for the past 14 years.

“Something that’s happening with enrollment for schools all across the country, and in Minn., and in the Metro, and in the Western suburbs is that we have a big declining enrollment because there’s just not as many kids,” said Mr. Sid Voss, Director of Educational Technology, Media Services, and Information Systems.

The current sophomore class has 144 fewer students than last year’s senior class.

Voss attributed this fluctuation of district sizes to the varying sizes of generations as they pass through school.

“The groups of kids coming through school now and starting to leave [high school] are the children of the baby boomers. Their kids are now finishing school, so we have fewer [students] all the way across,” Voss said.

In five years, the average high school grade size has declined by over fifty students, resulting in the current average size of 595 students.

Dr. Nik Lightfoot, assistant superintendent, attributes the shrinking numbers to birth rates as Voss did,as well as a concept he called “aging in place.”

“More people are staying in their homes for longer rather than a turnover introducing new individuals into the district that potentially would bring in younger children, school age children,” Lightfoot said.

Hopkins also loses students because of open enrollment.

Open enrollment is a process in which parents can opt to send their children to a public school district other than the district they live in. It used to be a rare occurrence. Now, however, more than one-thousand students in grades K-12 who should be attending the Hopkins District are opting to attend another district.

“We’re dealing with a more mobile society and a more mobile population, so there is a lot more movement in and movement out of population in general,” Lightfoot said.

Of the students who open enroll out, Hopkins loses the most to the Minnetonka District.

Where Meier lives, he is much closer to the schools of the Minnetonka District than those of Hopkins. The majority of high schoolers in his neighborhood attend Hopkins, but not all.

“In some cases, [reasons to open enrol] may be that [a school] is closer, that it’s more convenient for a parent,” Voss said. “Some high school kids, they are looking for different options that may meet specific needs. So, a specialty school like the Mainstreet School is a great option for some.”

Meier, senior, attended the Hopkins District until ninth grade, when he switched to Minnetonka High School. Like some others who have open enrolled out of Hopkins, Meier believed that Minnetonka was a better district, and past family experiences related to drugs at HHS made him wary of attending the school.

Meier had thought the different demographics at Minnetonka would mean a different environment but, once he open enrolled there, discovered that HHS was not the only Lake Conference high school where kids use drugs.

During the second term of his senior year, Meier transferred back to HHS.

“From the start I didn’t like [Minnetonka High School],” Meier said.

Although many are leaving the district, Hopkins District currently enrolls slightly more students in from other public school districts.

The Hopkins and Robbinsdale district borders divide the city of Golden Valley, so many Robbinsdale residents open enroll into Hopkins.

“We get a few [students] from Minneapolis, a few out of the Eden Prairie district, a few out of Wayzata, but primarily from Robbinsdale,” Voss said. “It’s an appreciable number of several hundred kids that come from the Robbinsdale School District.”

Hilloway, a section of the larger neighborhood, Sherwood Forest, has seen quite a few students open enroll into the Hopkins District due to its location. Despite being less than two miles from HHS, residents of Hilloway are within the limits of the Wayzata Public School District, where the high school is more than 10 miles away.

Jillaine DeYoung, senior, is one of those Wayzata district students.

DeYoung open enrolled into Hopkins in kindergarten, and she attended L. H. Tanglen Elementary. She spent her first years of education at Tanglen, until she decided to switch to Wayzata Middle School East for sixth grade.

“I was going to go over [to Wayzata] because their junior high is closer to my house; the bus stop is closer. I thought the sports would be better there,” DeYoung said.

However, after one year at Wayzata Middle School East, DeYoung came back to Hopkins.

“The Wayzata High School is probably 20 minutes away from my house, so [enrolling in Hopkins] has made everything a lot easier,” DeYoung said.

In an age of social media and instant access to information, the public image of any school district is becoming increasingly important.

Hopkins’ District Communications and Public Relations Coordinator, Jolene Goldade, helps recruit families into the district through social media, internet, and mail services, amongst other methods.

“We’re doing a lot of things to encourage families to give Hopkins a first look, making sure they’re touring the buildings and getting information about the district, because we have a lot to offer,” Goldade said.

The general growing and shrinking of the district is not unanticipated, however. Demographic information of Hopkins Public School District residents allows projections of schools’ enrollment to be made several years beforehand.

“Late nineties, early two thousands: [the district] knew that we would see the largest kind of populations happening at right about [those years]. The demographic information let us know that there [would be] a declining population because there are less numbers of families of childbearing age that are within the boundaries of the Hopkins School District,” Lightfoot said.

Despite the district-wide decline, both Meadowbrook Elementary and XinXing Academy have grown in the past five years.

Meadowbrook has had the largest kindergarten class for the last three school years.

Furthermore, although XinXing is Hopkins’ smallest elementary facility, it has sparked an interest among numerous families, including many outside the Hopkins District.

“[XinXing has] created a hallmark program for immersion in a language that is not available in an immersion school anywhere else in the West Metro,” Lightfoot said. “It has been a very important addition to the programming that we offer because it brings variety.”

Both Voss and Goldade mentioned that the interest in XinXing comes not only from Hopkins or the West Metro, but from districts as far as Richfield.

“Generally, about half the kids using our XinXing program come from outside our Hopkins School District,” Voss said.

Voss added that the district is beginning to project numbers as large as the 1999-2000 school year to start again in 2020. Which is only six years away.