Student numbers continue to fall

Doug Boock
Enrollment in Galva schools has dropped about five percent the past year. Galva Supt. Dr. James Minick says that follows a nationwide trend.

Galva School District enrollment has dropped about 5 percent the past year, mirroring a trend throughout much of Illinois.

According to Galva enrollment figures as of the sixth day of the 2008-09 school year, there were 626 students in grades pre-K through 12. That’s down from 659 a year ago.

“This is a trend that’s national ? except in the suburbs ? of enrollments going down,” Supt. James Minick said last week. “The post-war baby boom is over, those people are getting ready to retire and families are not having as many children.”

According to a survey in The Register-Mail on Sept. 8, most school districts in western Illinois are seeing shrinking enrollments, at varying paces. None are drastic.

“People look at it like, ‘Oh, people don’t want to live here.’ It’s nothing like that. People are just having less kids,” Minick said.

Because the amount of state aid a district receives is affected by enrollment, school officials often like to see student populations rise. But increasing numbers isn’t the most important issue, Minick said.

“The most important thing we do is teach the kids that we have,” he explained. “Although everyone would like to see our numbers increase slightly between our facilities, our focus needs to be on doing the best we can with what we have.”

The enrollment drop in Galva schools over the past year isn’t big. It’s also not easily definable, either, other than the reduced birth rates.

Most Galva classes are smaller this year than on the sixth day of school last year. In grades K-12, only grades 3, 4, 7 and 9 are larger (meaning those classes are larger than when they were in grades 2, 3, 6 and 8 last year). But again, drastic reductions ? and huge increases ? aren’t seen in any class. That’s not unusual.

As of the sixth day of school this year, the largest grade level was third grade, with 49 students, followed by ninth grade (48) and seventh grade (47). The smallest class was the senior class, with 31, followed by the sophomores (34) and pre-K (36). Kindergarten, second and sixth grades all had 38 students.

Perhaps most notable is the fact that this year’s Galva enrollment ? 626 ? is the smallest since at least 1948. (Pre-1948 numbers were not available as of press time).

From 1957 to 1976, Galva enrollment figures never dipped below 1,000. The high-water period was 1964-1968, when enrollment averaged nearly 1,190.

Since 1983, when enrollment was 792 ? its highest in the past 25 years and pre-K wasn’t even in existence then ? Galva enrollment figures have steadily dropped. Sixteen of those 25 years have seen fewer students enrolled than the previous year.

One major trend departure was 2006, when enrollment rose quite a bit ? 9 percent ? from 640 to 698. The reason isn’t clear.

The trend is expected to continue. Other than in suburban and some “pocket” areas experiencing population growth, enrollment figures are expected to continue to drop statewide.

“Everyone’s experiencing this,” Minick said.


Seen below are Galva School District enrollment figures on the sixth day of school for the past 25 years. Prekindergarten students were not included in enrollment figures until 1992.

1983 – 792

1984 – 776

1985 – 762

1986 – 722

1987 – 725

1988 – 695

1989 – 716

1990 – 737

1991 – 751

1992 – 756

1993 – 789

1994 – 787

1995 – 777

1996 – 785

1997 – 750

1998 – 739

1999 – 746

2000 – 725

2001 – 726

2002 – 725

2003 – 705

2004 – 666

2005 – 640

2006 – 698

2007 – 659

2008 – 626