• Original Reporting
Original Reporting This article contains new, firsthand information uncovered by its reporter(s). This includes directly interviewing sources and research / analysis of primary source documents.

Shifts in the number of students attending public schools across Colorado are reshaping the ways that district leaders and educators are managing classrooms and planning for the future, particularly as many districts in the state — and country — experience enrollment declines.

The Colorado Department of Education will count the number of students in public classrooms this school year next month — as the state does every October — and release the tally by sometime in January.

Last year’s state figures revealed that more than half of Colorado school districts — 94 of the state’s 178 districts — saw student enrollment drop. The total number of public school students also decreased to 883,264 students, a 0.37% decrease from the previous school year.

The statewide student count has largely continued to trend downward throughout the pandemic, most notably during the 2020-21 school year, when enrollment in Colorado public schools plunged by 30,000 kids — down to 883,281 students, marking the first enrollment downturn in more than 30 years at the time.

As The Colorado Sun previously reported, the enrollment slump has been driven by a mix of factors. Among the most influential: years of declining birth rates now translating to fewer kids showing up in classrooms.

Meanwhile, the demographics of Colorado students are also changing. For instance, the overall percentage of students of color enrolled in public schools statewide was up to 49% during the previous school year, gradually increasing from 47% during 2018-19, according to state data.

And last fall, the state counted almost 7,700 fewer white students across districts than the previous school year.

To help parents, teachers, education leaders and policymakers better understand how enrollment has changed, the nonpartisan Keystone Policy Center teamed up with The Colorado Sun to develop an interactive map, using data from the state education department. The Keystone Policy Center cleaned and sorted the data and designed the map. 

The most recent enrollment figures the state has are from the 2022-23 school year.

The map also breaks down how student counts have shifted among different groups of kids, including students of color, students with special needs, students living in poverty and students learning English.

Use the map to put numbers to overall enrollment changes in Colorado throughout each of the past five school years or to zoom in and look at how enrollment has fluctuated in your school or district.

Erica Breunlin is an education writer for The Colorado Sun, where she has reported since 2019. Much of her work has traced the wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic on student learning and highlighted teachers' struggles with overwhelming workloads...