Consultant Predicts Stable Enrollment

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Thursday July 11, 2013

Bill Smith, a self proclaimed “numbers geek” and long time consultant on enrollment projections to area school districts gave an optimistic presentation on the state of South Burlington’s enrollment at the June 19 school board meeting. He showed a graph of October enrollments from 1990-2030 (this only included residents in the public schools). South Burlington showed a pretty tight range hovering around the 2,200 mark. Smith explained that he sees a stable situation in the coming years and feels that Board members should be comforted by what he feels is a reasonable estimate. 

Smith looks at a variety of factors in creating his predictions. These include, birth to county residents over time, fertility rates and other demographic multipliers. Smith said the fertility rate for the area is below the replacement rate . (Based upon demographics, many people who could be having children are not; this population growth trend is similar to that of Western Europe. Smith used the following example; his children are grown, but are choosing not to have children, hence the replacement rate in some areas is much lower than others). In addition, people who don’t have children are moving here because it is closer to jobs.  Although his graphs showed peaks and valleys, he said the best scenario is to have a stable market. 

The bottom line to consider is, “What programs do you want to have, for what kids, and where?” Smith said. 

Superintendent Young is working on collaborating with the City and their vision for the future of South Burlington in order to more accurately determine the needs of the District in the next 10 years. Interim City Manager Kevin Dorn and Interim Deputy City Manager Tom Hubbard were both in attendance for the presentation. Young said he’s taking a stacked approach that looks at City endeavors, school projections, and ability to pay. “We want to converse with the City,” Young said, “It goes back to visioning.” 

Although the topic of increasing affordable housing has recently been broached by the City, Smith explained this wouldn’t necessarily impact school enrollment. His projections are based upon “all things being equal.” Projections need to be made based on those who are already living here.” Smith said that up to a certain number of housing units, no real impact is seen on schools. South Burlington would need 100s of units being built per year and being occupied before schools began to see any impact. For example, although Burlington is the largest city in Vermont, 2 out of 3 children do not end up in the school system there for a variety of reasons. One idea Smith posited is that when a family has one child, they may decide that their current home isn’t large enough and they will move as far away as they need to in order to find more affordable housing and jobs that can sustain their expanded living space.

As plans for City Center, the TIF, and numerous other City projects move forward, the School District will be participating in the dialogue and as a result will be better able to anticipate the future needs of the District.

SOURCE: Corey Burdick, Correspondent