Dysart district enrollment declines slower than predicted

[file photo courtesy of Dysart Unified School District]

Jennifer Jimenez
Independent Newsmedia

Dysart Unified School District has experienced another decline in enrollment, but not as large as predicted early this school year.

District planning administrator Kevin Shipman updated the board on the issue, while Rick Brammer and Don Graves from Applied Economics provided the latest demographic data for potential future impact of student growth during the April 25 Governing Board meeting at the Nathaniel Dysart Education Center 15802 N Parkview Place.

“We predicted a larger decline and overall enrollment has been pretty flat and not plummeting,” said Jack Eaton, business services executive director for the district. “It hasn’t changed and still we are building houses out there, so we know kids are going to other providers.”

Mr. Brammer has been compiling demographic information for the DUSD for the past 20 years and credited the district with coming a long way during that time. Enrollment trends vary as to alternative school enrollment, age characteristics and birth rates, which have a big impact on Dysart, Mr. Brammer said

The population age structure of households is continuing to shift and the pace of residential development plays into projections. Distribution of enrollment per grade is tracked over time and growth is led by the youngest cohorts.

Mr. Brammer said this group has taken a hard hit the last two years.Birth rates also play an important role and and in 2008 declined more than 19 percent, presumably due to the recession.

“We have seen kindergarten drop between 2012 and now and that’s going to continue to roll ahead on us,” Mr. Brammer said. “I was thinking by now it would turn around and, as it turns out, birth rates have gone down more again. This will effect enrollment at every school and I see it at almost every district.”

When enrollment is viewed on a grid, it shows high concentration in population in the middle of the district and every going forward is going to go move more south, said Mr. Brammer.

“We are gaining students only where we are building houses and losing students in different areas due to competition by charters and aging of population in early parts of the district that developed,” he added.

Mr. Graves said 10 years ago, when the recession hit, building activity plummeted and bottomed out before starting to rise again in 2010. He said active existing subdivisions continue to built out, bringing in new development.

“The market has stabilized and increasing and getting stronger,” he explained. “In five years, that will be 20 percent in central and the other 80 percent will be split between the northern and southern parts of the city.”

Mr. Brammer said in the areas of school population and households, there will be three to five years of strong activity.

Growth is occurring, but according to Mr. Brammer, 7,300 totals students are in charter schools and they have gained 2,300 students in last three years while the district has lost 1,500.

Construction activity accelerated to 1,500 houses this year and Mr. Brammer said some impact will come in time to be offset by increased competition from charter schools.

School-age population is expected to grow by 7,800 over next 10 years and enrollment should be up about 3,500 in next 10 years, he said. Mr. Shipman said developer donation agreements established with new housing projects will help fund future enrollment growth.

“There were 100 or so development agreements and legal agreements established with developer voluntary donation cash payments per housing unit or site and those donations are to assist the district with the population those houses bring,” Mr. Shipman explained. “We are working with finance and making sure we are accounting for those payments.”

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