ICCSD updates enrollment projections


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The ongoing growth in the Iowa City School District has raised a new concern — an update to enrollment projections — to be addressed by School Board members during this evening’s meeting. The update has been recommended by the district’s administration; it would cost $5,250 in physical plant and equipment levy funding if the board approves the expenditure.

“If we’re making decisions on data that need to be updated, then we’re not making the most accurate decisions,” said recently elected School Board member Brian Kirschling. “You can only predict so well, and then you have to re-evaluate.” In recent years, many schools have been added as well as renovated, including Borlaug, Garner, and Horn Elementary Schools.

At present, there are 25 schools in the 12,774-student district. With rising enrollment, updated projection numbers are important for planning.  

As the fifth-largest school district in the state, growing pains have just begun, and projected enrollment numbers have played a large role in the new $250 million Facilities Master Plan that has been highly contested over the past seven months. While enrollment projections are typically updated yearly, the Facilities Master Plan has made long-range estimations more pertinent.

“We used to do five years, but in terms of planning projection, that’s a pretty short time frame,” said Chris Lynch, another recently elected School Board member. “Last year was the first time we did a 10-year projection … This will be the first time we do a two-year-in-a-row-10-year projection.”

Under the plan, three new elementary schools, one new high school, and numerous renovations and additions to existing schools will take place.

In contrast, the Cedar Rapids School District has experienced faltering enrollment in past years. According to the district’s 2010-11 Enrollment Report, enrollment decreased by 0.8 percent in three years leading up to the 2009-10 school year. In the 2001-02 school year, the district enrollment was 17,216 students. By the 2010-11 school year, there was more than a 700-student decrease.

Iowa City School Board members said up-to-date information will be important for forecasting growth. “The superintendent is going to make recommendations for the timeline of the Facilities Master Plan coming up in November,” Kirschling said. “Anytime you’re making a decision, you have to make sure you have accurate data.”

School District chief operating officer David Dude wrote in an email that at the administrative level, the projections are used for nearly everything, and with the increasing enrollment in the district, they are becoming even more important.  “Due to the rapid change in our district, we update these projections each year,” he wrote. “We base our projections on certified enrollment, so we won’t know for certain what our growth looks like this year until that process is complete — later this month.”

School Board President Sally Hoelscher also said the projections are not used on a day-to-day basis but rather for planning, especifically financial planning. “The staffing decisions are made when the time comes and kids are in the seats,” she said. “When we know what the projected enrollment is, that helps us make sure we can pay for it.”

Lynch said another topic he looks forward to discussing at tonight’s meeting is an upcoming team-building day. “I’m looking forward to the board retreat and getting clear on the agenda,” he said. “To do some team building and how we’re going to move forward as a board team.”

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