Moreno, principal of Iowa Elementary School, said student populations in the Denver suburb have soared in the past 20 years, with a more diverse student body: 19 percent of last year's kindergarteners spoke Spanish as their first language, a nearly threefold increase from 1993.
Colorado and 12 other Western states are expected to see enrollment rise collectively by 7.5 percent over 1999 figures, while school populations drop in 29 states, mostly in the Northeast, Midwest and South.
Enrollments are expected to drop 3.3 percenin the Midwest and 4.2 percent in the Northeast.
The report said southern states would see modest growth of around 1 percent. The exceptions are Georgia, which is expected to enroll 7.2 percent more students than in 1999, and Texas, which expects 6.6 percent more students. A few southern states, such as Kentucky, Oklahoma and West Virginia, are expected to lose from 6.5 percent to 10 percent of students.
Overall, total public and private elementary and secondary enrollment is expected to grow, from 52.9 million students in 1999 to 53.4 million in 2005. After that, it will likely drop a bit, to 53 million, by 2011. In all, the total number of children in school will rise by 0.7 percent.
Figures for the report came from federal and state agencies, private researchers and groups such as the National Education Association. Sources included government surveys, compilations of administrative records from school districts and results of the 1990 U.S. Census.
Projections from the 2000 Census won't be released until next year.
Among the regions, the West was the only one with consistent gains across all states.
"This may be news to parts of the country, but it's not news to Arizona, because we've been in this for a couple of years," said Jean Bell, principal of Maclennan Elementary School in Wickenburg, Ariz.
Bell said Wickenburg, an hour's drive northwest of Phoenix, is quickly becoming a bedroom community that attracts transplants from California and the Midwest as well as Latin America.
The rapid growth in the once rural area means that her district is competing with better-funded suburban school systems for more teachers. Meanwhile, government funds for school construction and supplies are barely keeping up.
"Everything moves at a snail's pace, and the growth rate is happening now," she said. "It's not moving very slowly."
Written by Greg Toppo
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