Recent numbers revealed by the office of the Montana Superintendent of Public Instruction state that public school enrollment has returned to pre-COVID levels.

KGVO News spoke with OPI Superintendent of Public Instruction Elsie Arntzen about the numbers just released last Friday.

“We had preliminary numbers, because we take a count of students in the fall and also in the spring,” said Arntzen. “Those were preliminary numbers, but it pretty much came out after we had really looked at the data and had had more conversations with schools, that it is true that there are more children in public education across our state than there were the year before, which is exciting, in fact because parents and students believe in public education.”

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Arntzen said the rising enrollment numbers increases the level of responsibility for teachers and administrators to better educate their students.

“With an increase in enrollment in our public schools, that means that there's responsibility,” she said. “There's responsibility for our school trustees and our teachers to prepare our students that are sitting in our classrooms and that will sit in our classrooms this coming new school year that they must give the best education possible. It doesn't mean that teachers work harder, it just means that we need to be smarter in that role.”

Arntzen provided the actual enrollment numbers and the percentage of increase in public schools.

“The final fall Montana public school enrollment is 149,193,” she said. “That's a 2.5 percent increase over last year. In our K-8 enrollment, we had an increase of 2.7 percent. And then in our high school enrollment, we had an increase of 2.4 percent. So we know there are more children in our elementary schools than ever before.”

Arntzen named the districts that have the highest percentage of growth in Montana’s public schools.

“We look at this per district and in our counties and in Gallatin County since 2014 enrollment has grown by 15.3 percent. We know in Flathead County where we have a high growth population, it has grown by 9.4 percent since 2014.”

Conversely, enrollment has dropped in more rural counties throughout the state. Rosebud County public school enrollment dropped 6.5 percent since the 2014-2015 school year, while Toole County public school enrollment dropped 5.4 percent since the 2014-2015 school year.”

Montana public schools are required to send enrollment data, per Montana statute, to the Office of Public Instruction to calculate school funding.

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