If you look at SVSD enrollment projections contained in past yearly Capital Facility Plans (CFP), you will notice more often than not, 6-year high school enrollment projections have been high compared to reality. They’re especially high when the predictions go 4-6 years into the future. Once the projections are looking ahead just one year, they get closer to reality, but historically are still on the high side.
These CFP enrollment projections are different than those used to create the district’s yearly operating budget. The CFP enrollment numbers are more aggressive than the conservative budgetary ones; the rationale being it’s easier to hire a teacher at the last minute than it is to build a school.
The question remains, should CFP enrollment numbers be more conservative since they are used to determine the timing of school bonds? If the projections are too high, do they contradict a construction bond’s timing and give voters a reason to vote no?
When actual SVSD high school enrollment numbers were released during the 2011 bond, they were lower than the projections in bond promotional literature. As a result, the legitimacy of the projections came under fire. The 2013 timeline was questioned. The bond failed by one vote the first time; by even more the second time.
I did some digging; looking for clues as to why SVSD high school enrollment projections historically come in high; attempting to find a piece of the puzzle Calm River Demography (SVSD demographer) might be missing. What I found was a higher than accounted for class attrition rate, or the shrinkage of high school graduating classes from freshman year to senior year. That attrition rate is a result of multiple factors, including transfers, move-outs, Running Start, online school, home school and dropouts. This is NOT simply a dropout rate.
For the past 10 years, high school graduating classes have shrunk an average of 13.3% between freshman and senior year; or 4.4% per year. The lowest levels were the classes of 2004 and 2005 – with a 1.9% and 4.8% total decrease. Since then all graduating classes have decreased between 12 – 19% moving from freshman to senior year. This year’s junior class alone has already shrunk 19% – even before its senior year head count.
In contrast, looking at Calm River Demography’s 10-year enrollment projections for the class of 2014 through the class of 2023, the same 3-year attrition rate is only 3.4% – or 1.15% per year. That’s about a 10% spread between the actual, historical data and the predictions. Light bulb moment. Could this be the missing link? What does future high school enrollment look like if you apply the historical attrition rate? Could it be MSHS doesn’t reach capacity until 2015, instead of the predicted 2013?
Some might say those two years won’t make a huge difference, citing that eventually MSHS will be over capacity and something needs to be done. Point duly noted. It’s important to remember, though, that the committee recommending the SMS annexation worked with high school enrollment predictions of 2,063 – 2,121 students in the year 2013; since then those projections have shrunk by 16% – 18%, down to 1,733 students. And coincidentally, the last five Capital Facilities Plan’s high school enrollment projections have been over-projected, on average, by 4.9% when looking ahead two years; almost identical to the 4.4% attrition rate.
What if those extra two years are the “gift of time” needed to replace SMS for 500 Snoqualmie Middle School students and keep the 3 middle school educational model “mojo” going? Two years could give SVSD time to implement an over-crowding solution better than a band-aid of portables and more busing; time to solve the problem in a way that’s best for all students.
There’s your food for thought today, Snoqualmie Valley.