Dec 20, 2021 - News

Waukee schools anticipates even faster growth in next 5 years

Percentage change in Iowa school district enrollment, 2019 to 2021
Certified enrollment numbers from 2019-20 to 2021-22. Data: Iowa Department of Education; Chart: Jared Whalen/Axios

Waukee district leaders expect their booming student population to grow at an even higher rate over the next five years — averaging 600+ students annually in comparison to its previous 450-500 students.

Driving the news: The state Department of Education released its certified enrollment numbers last week, showing that Waukee had the largest percentage growth for fall 2021, followed by Ankeny.

  • Des Moines, the state's largest school district, saw the biggest percentage drop in enrollment since last year, due to COVID-19 uncertainties, district officials said.

State of play: In the next ten years, 11,000 housing units could open within Waukee's district boundaries, drawing in 2,800 to 3,000 new students in the next five years, district leaders told Axios.

  • An intensive construction timeline is underway, with plans to build two elementary schools, two middle schools and a pool complex all before 2025.
  • Talks are in the works for a third elementary school.

Yes, but: Student growth also requires staff hiring. And like other metro school districts, Waukee isn't immune from the workforce shortages.

  • Administrators said they're currently in talks about paying school staff who lose their planning time to cover classrooms.

Plus: State funding is based on the previous year's enrollment — meaning that for a district growing as fast as Waukee, they're already short money for 600 students.

  • Class sizes average around 23-25 students for elementary, while secondary is around 27-28.

What they're saying: As the district keeps growing, it will be imperative for the Legislature to fund the district at adequate levels to keep up.

  • "If we continue to get the low increases in school funding that we've seen for the last decade, there does come a point where it will start to impact class sizes," Superintendent Brad Buck said.

Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Des Moines stories

No stories could be found

Des Moinespostcard

Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Des Moines.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more