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New report predicts slower enrollment growth at Steamboat schools

Teresa Ristow
Strawberry Park Elementary students wave from a school bus in 2013.
school_bus_file

If you go:

What: Presentation on new enrollment forecast with Jim Looney

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 10

Where: Bud Werner Memorial Library, 1289 Lincoln Ave.

— A new enrollment forecast for the Steamboat Springs School District predicts much slower enrollment growth in the coming five years than was predicted in a 2014 demographics report.

The new report was commissioned by the Community Committee for Education, paid for by the district and completed by Jim Looney, an independent demographics consultant who is also a planner for Denver Public Schools.

Looney studied historical and current school enrollment and factored in the region’s birth rate, a method for enrollment prediction that wasn’t used in the earlier report and became an area of concern for members of the public and CC4E’s demographics task force.

Fewer births during the recession years and the newly opened Mountain Village Montessori Charter School are the two variables leading to the slower enrollment growth, according to the 22-page report, completed in late October.

“Overall, it’s an interesting report, very different from the last one, and it explains the methodology well,” said Mary Darcy, a member of CC4E and leader of the committee’s demographics task force, which advocated for the new report.

According to Looney’s report, overall district enrollment will rise from this year’s 2,526 students to 2,618 in fall 2021, an increase of of 92 students.

A more comprehensive demographics report commissioned by the district in 2014 predicted enrollment to grow much faster, reaching 2,840 students by 2019.

The 2014 report by Western Demographics didn’t factor in birth rates or the drop in birth rates observed locally and nationwide during the recession, and it also didn’t consider the Montessori school, as it wasn’t open at the time.

Superintendent Brad Meeks said that, while the district valued the information from the first report, administrators make their own internal enrollment projections annually and don’t simply follow the demography report year after year.

“We use the demographics study as a guide, but if a grade level is off, we adjust going forward,” Meeks said.

The new report also includes findings for how many students are likely to attend each of the district’s schools in the coming five years, with fewer students expected at the district’s elementary schools than current enrollment levels and more at the district’s middle and high schools.

The earlier report had predicted more students at the elementary schools and suggested there would still be space at the middle and high schools in coming years.

Because the new Montessori school is currently a pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade campus, Looney predicted the school would enroll many students who would otherwise have attended district schools, but that some percentage of the students would end up attending the district by middle or high school, boosting enrollment at the higher grades.

The full report is available at cc4e.org and will be presented to the public by Looney at 6 p.m. Thursday at Bud Werner Memorial Library as part of a series of educational forums being put on by CC4E.

To reach Teresa Ristow, call 970-871-4206, email tristow@SteamboatToday.com or follow her on Twitter @TeresaRistow


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