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Rochester, MN (KROC AM News) - Rochester Public Schools is projecting a rebound in enrollment but then a decline to current levels by 2030.

Information that will be presented to the Rochester School Board at its Tuesday meeting indicates RPS may not experience an enrollment number similar to 2019 for at least ten years.

In fact, a new projection indicates after rebounding to around 18,000 students in 2024 enrollment will begin declining in 2026/27 and fall to around 17,700 by the 2030/31 year, about the same as the current figure.

RPS experienced an unexpected enrollment decline in the current school year and suspects the Covid pandemic is to blame.

The decline of nearly 700 students is comparable to one of the district’s largest elementary schools and ended a 5-year streak of growing enrollment. It hit a record 18,300 in October 2019.

RPS says the biggest reason given for leaving the district’s schools was moving. Nearly 50-percent of the families indicated they were moving out of the Rochester district. But 34-percent indicated they had opted to send their children to private schools or had chosen to homeschool or enroll them in a non-RPS online school.


  • 25% moved out of the local area
  • 21% moved out of state or country
  • 13% paid for private school
  • 13% chose homeschooling (not the same as distance learning)
  • 11% had not provided a reason for leaving
  • 8% enrolled in an online school (for distance learning but not RPS distance learning)
  • 6% open-enrolled into another local district like Byron, Stewartville, Pine Island, or Dover-Eyota
  • 1% enrolled in a local public charter school
  • 1% refused services
  • <1% dropped out
  • <1% entered a GED program

The School Board will review the latest enrollment projections at its Tuesday meeting. They will cover the years 2021-2022 through 2030-2031.

Rochester Public Schools
Rochester Public Schools

Here is more information from the report the board will review:

Rochester Public Schools approaches enrollment projections in a serious manner. Accurate enrollment projections are the cornerstone of planning for all public school districts. The majority of student funding is based on enrollment numbers. Additionally, appropriate facilities space is expensive but necessary to provide education services

The projections in the attached report are based on the historical progression of students from grade to grade. This methodology accounts for in-migration and out-migration of families and assumes that students will move from grade to grade based on the most recent three years of data. The enrollment projections for future years are significantly influenced by the kindergarten projection, which is the most difficult to project.

The projections are possibly conservative; staff have assumed 25% of the students who left for other options will re-enroll for 2021-2022 but that 75% of the students will stay with the option they chose in 2020-2021.

The capture rate, meaning the number of students who choose public school versus other schools, has decreased a percentage point from the previous year but is the same percentage it was in 2016-2017 at 83%. The percentage of students enrolled in non-public schools has decreased from 10% to 9%. The percentage of students enrolled in charter schools has not changed from 3%. The percentage f students enrolled in home school has increased to 4%. Total enrollment in non-public, in-district charter, and home school was 3,561 in October 2020, an increase of 87 students from the previous year.

The analysis of enrollment option data shows that the number of students choosing to attend school elsewhere outside of the District increased by 122 in 2019-2020 to 2,176 versus 2,054 in 2018-2019. Of this, students choosing on-line school enrollment increased from 155 to 180, in-district charter school enrollment increased from 609 to 683, and out of district enrollment increased from 1,267 to 1,292. The majority of students who attend other districts through open enrollment options go to Byron, Stewartville, Dover-Eyota, and Pine Island school districts. About 392 students open enroll into Rochester from Pine Island, Stewartville, Byron, Dover-Eyota, Plainview-Elgin-Millville, and others.

The District enrollment projections have historically been very accurate, with the average variance over the last twenty years between actual October enrollment and the projection one year earlier being 1%. The average variance between actual October enrollment and the projection five years earlier is 3.7% over that same twenty years.

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