This week’s announcement of a new Iowa high school football classification system reiterated the fact that Clinton needs a jolt.
If official enrollment figures stay similar to 2016-17 among Class 4A schools, Clinton High School will participate in 3A football in 2018. While that offers advantages to the River Kings, it also brings to the forefront of the shrinking student population within the Clinton School District.
In 2016, 270 students were eligible for graduation. Five years previously, 298 were eligible. The certified enrollment for the district for the 2016-17 school year was 3,784. Five years ago, the enrollment was 4,055.
Ten years ago, the certified enrollment was 4,374.
Those are scary numbers. There are some caveats that go with those, with a glaring number being the open enrolled out number. Ten years ago, the open-enrolled out was 198. Today, that number is 380.
That doesn’t make up for the entire certified enrollment, but it does make a difference. And the district is tackling that problem head-on with a new marketing approach to slow down the exodus from the district.
Even if that slows, that doesn’t erase the fact that the fewer students going to Clinton schools goes hand-in-hand with consistent population decline. In 1990, the population neared 30,000. In 2016, the population was less than 26,000.
That decline hasn’t been a sharp decrease; instead it’s been a gradual issue.
So what is happening to reverse this trend? Plenty if you’re paying attention.
There have been many holes in growth over the years, with housing being a glaring problem. The rental market in Clinton has been less-than-desirable in some cases in the last decade or so. That’s changing. Developers are spending money in Clinton based on a demand for quality rental housing. The city of Clinton would likely want people to buy homes, meaning they would stay in town longer, but having a robust rental market can attract younger workers, who in the past may have elected to live in the Quad-Cities.
Infrastructure-wise, the city is in pretty good position. The railport is a place for companies to locate and there’s plenty of other developed land for shovel-ready projects, like the Lyons Business and Technology Park. The growth has been slower than many had hoped, but there’s still locations available for companies to expand or locate in Clinton. That’s not the case in several cities in Iowa.
The potential is available for growth, but there are still some roadblocks. Having a trained workforce is a common issue I hear from community members. It makes sense that this is a problem with a declining population. The fewer people you have, the less opportunities to find qualified workers.
That doesn’t just mean having a college degree, but having technical training to complete emerging jobs at manufacturing companies.
That’s where the school and the city should continue to work better. I heard on the radio this week a conversation featuring candidates for the upcoming Clinton election about the desire to continue having better relationships between the city, schools and county. I hear that often during election season (don’t forget about our political guide to be published next week), but it fades during the actual governing process.
We’re all in this together, and there is some hope for better communication. The worst secret in the history of mankind was recently presented in an open forum regarding investors being interested in the former Ashford University campus.
There’s so many working parts to this deal, meaning it requires the attention of multiple factions. What’s inspiring in this project is that the Clinton School District and the city of Clinton have come to the table to work together to make this project a reality.
The city is entering in a development agreement with Clinton Catalyst representatives, while the school district is at the table, figuring out how to bring in students from overseas, and integrating them into Clinton High School.
That kind of partnership shouldn’t just be relegated to this issue. Keep that in mind when voting on Nov. 7 in the city elections.
There are many things happening in this area. The former Ashford University campus is at the forefront of those developments, but the housing industry has been rejuvenated and the Thomson, Illinois, prison is hiring again. The future is happening before our eyes. Now, it comes down to creating a vision to maximize those opportunities.
Scott Levine is the Associate Editor of the Clinton Herald. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.