Bettendorf Superintendent of Schools, Theron Schutte, has good news to share with area residents. The 2014 enrollment figures have been completed and released. The total number of student served stands at 4,707, indicating a stable school population.
Little variation in enrollment figures may not matter much to individuals unfamiliar with enrollment statistics, but this is good news, indeed, to those who follow the complex demands buffeting local school systems. Despite declining a residential student population the past few years, the Bettendorf district continues to benefit from an influx of 647 open enrolled and tuition students versus 213 students who enroll out of the district.
Over the past decade the Bettendorf Community School District has faced a slowly declining student enrollment for several reasons. First, the building out of the community’s housing stock reached completion several decades ago. With fewer families moving into the community, the student population reached a plateau and began a slow decline.
A second reason for lower student numbers decline relates to empty nester families who chose to remain in their homes, long after their children graduate from high school and leave the community. Fewer available homes combined with an aging housing stock undermines efforts to attracts sufficient families with children to support enrollment growth.
The decline in enrollment might be much worse except for two factors. First, a significant number of students enroll from outside the district attracted by the historically strong academic and extra-curricular programs and activities Bettendorf schools offer. Second, student participation in the district’s four year old preschool program has grown.
The city’s aging housing stock creates an additional problem for the school district. Older homes with a declining market value often attract lower income families. Presently, thirty per cent of Bettendorf school district children qualify for free and reduced lunches. This figure has often been cited as a measure of poverty within a community. By comparison, only twelve per cent in the Pleasant Valley School District qualify for the school lunch program.
Lower income families often do not have the necessary financial resources to provide access to educational enrichment programs. The families also may come from school districts that lack similar rigor in their curriculum or the same educational resources available in Bettendorf. The school district has to identify and access additional funding sources to underwrite the cost of offering additional programming to help low income students catch-up with their peers..
Fortunately, the district continues to succeed in its mission, as evidenced by the number and quality of students who graduate and attend college. Bettendorf students achieved an average score of 23.8 on ACT college entrance program, well above the national average score of 21 and the average score for states, such as Massachusetts and Connecticut.
Schutte arrived at the Bettendorf School District well prepared for the responsibilities he carries. He was born in Charles City and grew up in Marshalltown. He received his bachelor degree from central College in Pella and his doctorate from Iowa State University. He has served as a teacher, principal and superintendent. His move to Bettendorf in 2009 took place after serving four years as school superintendent in Boone, Iowa. He is actively involved in numerous educational and civic programs.