According to documents obtained from the Park City School District, enrollment at Park City schools is decreasing. The news couldn’t come at a worse time for the Park City School Board, who is attempting to pass a bond for rebuilding schools across the district. One of the key reasons cited for the need to rebuild schools is the growth the district expected.
As of October 2015, the school district had 145 less children, or 3% less than forecasted in Park City schools.
Overall enrollment dropped by 22 students, or 0.5%, district wide this year. However, the largest drops in enrollment came in our elementary schools where:
- Parley’s Park enrollment dropped 8.7%
- McPolin enrollment dropped 2.71%
- Jeremy Ranch enrollment dropped 0.18%
- Trailside enrollment dropped 2.85%
Ecker Hill also saw enrollment decrease by 0.25%. These losses were offset by a 6% increase at Treasure Mountain and 1.1% at PCHS. Overall enrollment dropped 0.5% across the district.
This actually isn’t surprising given the facts presented over the last few months. There were many times during School Board’s Master Planning Committee meetings that members talked about a “bubble” of kids moving through our schools, which has led to increased enrollment. They also talked about estimates where enrollment growth would likely be between -0.3% and 2.2%…. with the most likely scenario being 1.1% growth.
However, the school board and district officials has been using higher numbers in many discussion about the bond. Business Administrator Todd Hauber has talked on KPCW about 2.6% growth. During the Project for Deeper Understanding Discussion, School Board leader Tania Knauer cited a statistic that since 2006 there has been a 13% increase in students. We’ve also heard lots of talk about
double wide trailers learning chalets at Trailside because of the growth.
To be fair, the board’s plan doesn’t just hinge on student growth. There are also the major components of grade realignment, fixing the dual immersion program at Ecker Hill, and upgrading our athletics facilities driving the bond. Some proponents of the bond may also argue that this is just one year, and who knows what will happen next year. Yet, that plays right into the hands of those who say we should wait a year and study the bond more.
It’s not really surprising growth is slowing in our schools. To extrapolate recent growth, which is coming out of the one of the worse recessions and then biggest stock markets booms in history (coupled with low rates that enabled home purchases), was probably a mistake. To ignore the increase in second homes (who have fewer kids) was likely a mistake too.
Where does that leave us?
It likely means in our decision making about how to vote for the bond, we need to take into account no growth. If the number of students stays stagnant, does it still make sense to move forward with the plan? If your main reason for voting for the bond was athletics, this likely doesn’t change your mind at all. If you were against the bond because you wanted two middle schools, perhaps this makes you like the plan more, because it may make little sense to have more schools for fewer kids.
On the other side of the argument, if you were opposed to this bond because you wanted K-6 at our existing elementary schools but were told that there was no way it would work due to growth, you may really want the K-6 option explored now. Likewise, if you didn’t like this plan because you wanted smaller neighborhood schools, these lower growth numbers fit into that model nicely.
You can look at it a number of ways; however, we as a community need to take this new information about growth into account and that should change some of the discussion about the bond.
I see arguments on both sides of the bond issue; however one bond opposition argument that I heard at the Project For Deeper Understanding now rings more true than ever. Why not wait and vet the plan more? The answer to that used to be that “growth was coming.” Now, if growth isn’t coming… does it hurt to wait ? I’m sure there are arguments on both sides of that too… but I think it’s at least a good question to ask again.
Here are the enrollment numbers: