Dowell Elementary Principal Yeni Ontiveros high-fived Schuster Elementary students on April 18. The students were touring what will be their new school next year, part of El Paso Independent School District’s efforts to consolidate campuses in the wake of declining student enrollment. (Leonel Monroy/El Paso Independent School District)

The number of El Paso County children enrolling in kindergarten through second grade has dropped precipitously in the last seven years, further evidence that El Paso’s once-robust population growth has stalled.

El Paso County schools – including both traditional school districts and charter schools – had 34,603 students enrolled in kindergarten, first grade and second grade this year, according to data released in March 2019 by the Texas Education Agency. That’s down more than 5,000 from the 2011-12 enrollment in those grades, according to TEA records, a decline of 13%.

Only one traditional school district in El Paso County – Canutillo Independent School District in the western part of the county – has seen an increase in K-2 population in the past seven years. Canutillo’s K-2 population grew by 88 students to 1,345 this year, or 7%.

Even Socorro ISD, long described as a growing district on the eastern edge of El Paso’s city limits, is experiencing a population decline among its youngest students, according to TEA data. Socorro enrolled 8,758 students in K-2 last year, down 317 from 2011-12, a 3.5% drop.

Robert Moore is the founder and CEO of El Paso Matters. He has been a journalist in the Texas Borderlands since 1986.