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East Grand Forks student enrollment at five-year low, but just three shy of last year's total

Declining numbers in English Learner program driving down total enrollment.

East Grand Forks tower sign logo.jpg
A water tower in East Grand Forks, Minn. (Grand Forks Herald photo)
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EAST GRAND FORKS – Despite holding steady from the previous academic year, enrollment at East Grand Forks public schools has declined from previous highs.

Mike Kolness
Mike Kolness

“We’re right about where we left off last spring enrollment-wise,” said Superintendent Mike Kolness. “However, this is our lowest opening-day enrollment in five years.”

According to Kolness, 1,855 students are enrolled in grades kindergarten through 12 for the 2022-23 school year. Additionally, 157 students are enrolled in the district’s preschool program, bringing total enrollment to 2,012.

Historic enrollment data presented at East Grand Forks’ last School Board meeting shows a peak year-end enrollment of 2,201 K-12 students following the 1995-96 school year. Enrollment declined to a historic low of 1,712 at the end of the 2008-09 school year, before rebounding to 1,883 in 2017-18. This year’s enrollment is the lowest since 2017-18. Last year, there were 1,858 students in East Grand Forks schools.

Kolness attributes declining enrollment to fewer students in East Grand Forks’ English Learner program. The program offers students – those whose first language is not English – access to a rigorous curriculum to improve their proficiency. Students are assessed annually using the World-Class Instructional Design and Assessment (WIDA), according to the district’s website.

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During the 2017-18 school year, 171 students were enrolled in English Learner. That figure is down to 97 at the start of this school year.

Kolness cites two contributing factors to English Learner’s dwindling enrollment: increased emigration and decreased immigration.

“(Fewer) families from outside America are moving to East Grand Forks,” said Kolness. “Additionally, families with students enrolled in English Learner are leaving for cities like Minneapolis, St. Paul and St. Cloud, where there may be more housing opportunities.”

Kolness also said that of the current English Learner students and their families, fewer are making East Grand Forks their first place of residence in the U.S.

“In the past, we’d see more families coming here directly from overseas,” said Kolness. “Now, many of the students in English Learner and their families have been established elsewhere in the U.S. before coming to East Grand Forks.”

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