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LONGMONT — St. Vrain Valley School District anticipates steady growth in the number of full-time students in the district for the next five years.
Scott Toillion, director of planning for the district, described the process of analyzing the data, including the use of statistical modeling.
Toillion began his presentation for the school board with an overview of the potential positive impacts on enrollment growth.
“We continue to have a larger kindergarten cohort coming in than leaving in 12th grade,” Toillion said. “So this is something that’s been happening over the last 10 to 15 years, and it will continue over the next four or five years. The gap will narrow as the birth rate kind of steadies and those numbers reach high school.”
Toillion said the district should expect that the “bump” of larger cohorts in each kindergarten class will gradually diminish over the years.
“We have an increasing number of development applications in our district; it kind of shows a sign of maybe future growth in building permits,” Toillion said.
He reported that the state population is projected to add 90,000 residents for 2014, which includes net migration of 53,000 residents.
“Over the course of last year, there was a net job growth of 615 jobs in our area,” Toillion said. “And that’s the largest since 2005 in our district.”
Similar signs of encouragement could be found in the state projections of housing permits filed with the state.
“They’re projecting 33,000 state wide, which is the largest number since 2005” Toillion said. “So they’re some signs at the state level of growth happening and job creation and net migration increasing.”
But determining where the migration is bound within the state requires a closer look at the data, Toillion said.
At the district level, private schools have seen continuing declines in enrollment, which Toillion said has had an impact on the public schools.
Toillion didn’t limit his presentation to the rosier demographic trends, saying that potential job losses at local companies Amgen and Digital Globe could affect the enrollment level in St. Vrain.
“We’ve also seen the last three years that charter enrollment growth is slowing,” Toillion said. “So, from a growth of 400 new students three years ago, to 200, then to 60 last year. So we’ve seen a steady decline in charter growth.”
Toillion said a “low,” “mid,” and “high” projections were created from the data and then reviewed by a long range planning committee.
“And the consensus was that over the next five years, our mid level would range somewhere between 700 and 800 new students [per year],” Toillion said.
The mid-range prediction for growth would put the district on pace to reach 32,644 students in 2018. The low and high predictions were 31,723 and 33,819 respectively.
The projected enrollment for 2014 is 29,905, Toillion said.
“So we will continue to see growth – pretty healthy growth – but we’ve moderated a little bit,” Toillion said.
He said that the planning department was working with the district’s human resources department to create staffing plans based on enrollment projections.
School Board President John Creighton said the numbers looked “exciting and daunting all at the same time.”
He asked Toillion what turned out to be the most surprising fact from the data.
“You know, we continue to see growth occurring in the eastern side of the district, that’s where a lot of the permits are happening,” Toillion said. “The other thing that is kind of a new process over the last few years is monitoring open enrollment and what’s new is with our window, it allows me to see where students are applying, where they’re coming from, where they’re going.”
Toillion uses this data to create a matrix mid-year to help determine which schools will be impacted by trends in growth.
“Open enrollment is an important feature in our district,” Toillion said. “Because we have a lot of people taking advantage it, especially with the addition of our focus programs.”
This flexibility helps accommodate families and students, Toillion said.
Creighton asked for Toillion’s perspective on whether the municipalities are responding to the growth in residents in a manner that might affect the school district.
“We have good set-ups with our [intergovernmental agreements] with almost all of our communities,” Toillion said. “So we’re able to get land, or cash in-lieu when we need it for future planning. As we discussed at our previous meeting, one of the difficulties might be the location of oil wells, and how they impact, and the setbacks impact our future school sites.”
Toillion said the the planning department would continue to work with municipalities and oil companies to accommodate district growth.
“Some of these numbers are actually pretty startling when you’re looking at 20-25 point increases over the next four or five years,” School board member Paula Peairs said. “And that comes fast. I know we’ve been setting the groundwork, talking about the need for a bond, but that takes an election. So in the interim, are we ramping up on modulars?”
Chief Operations Officer Rick Ring responded that the district uses the portable modular classrooms as a mitigation technique.
“But the area superintendents also work very closely with the principals on facility utilization,” Ring said. “And at the secondary level, you have a little bit more flexibility in scheduling. It’s certainly not the most popular way, but there are plan times and you can move classrooms around.”
Ring repeated that these approaches were best viewed as mitigation techniques and not as a replacement to the addition of district schools.
“It’s a difficult process for principals and teachers, however it is one of our mitigation techniques and they’re actually doing that in some of those areas right now,” Ring said.
Contact Ben Wiebesiek at 303-659-2522, ext. 205, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.