New Steamboat Springs enrollment forecast presented
Steamboat Springs — School enrollment forecaster Jim Looney said Thursday that his report for the Steamboat Springs School District uses a combination of math and art to make projections about the district’s future enrollment.
He emphasized that variables to his forecast will come up in the future and that the numbers will likely need to be altered as years go by, which could be done using the information included in the report.
“The purpose of the forecast is not to hit a number on the head. It’s going to be wrong,” Looney told a crowd of people gathered at Bud Werner Memorial Library for an educational forum hosted by the Community Committee For Education, or CC4E. “One of these variables will change, and it will change the forecast.”
Looney, a planner for Denver Public Schools, was asked by CC4E do complete the 22-page report, which was paid for by the district.
The two biggest variables, or risk factors, affecting district enrollment in the near future are the “baby bust,” associated with the Great Recession, and the unknown future impacts of Mountain Village Montessori Charter School, which opened this fall, Looney said.
“When one of these variables changes, you can go into the report and account for that,” he said. “Adjustments can be made, depending on how the variables change.”
Looney’s report, finished in late October, predicts slower district enrollment growth in the coming five years than was forecast in a 2014 report the district received from Western Demographics.
The report predicts district enrollment to rise from this year’s 2,526 students to 2,618 in fall 2021, an increase of 92 students.
Looney forecast more growth at the district’s middle and high schools, which might lead to over-capacity and a decrease in students for the district’s elementary schools, which are currently over-capacity.
CC4E member Kevin Sankey, who is leading the committee’s facilities task force, found the new 5-year report useful, but said he was struggling with how to use the information to create a longer-term facilities plan for the district.
Sankey said during a school board meeting Monday that the task force was planning to show the board a first look of five options for facilities solutions in mid-December. The task force would then gather public input on the options before seeking board input.
On Thursday, Looney fielded several audience questions about how housing, location-neutral business people and other factors played into his report.
He said that yields from various types of housing developments, such as an apartment complex or single-family-home subdivision, were included in the report, but that location-neutral business people moving in were not accounted for, specifically, but were considered a part of the overall growth rate the district has historically experienced.
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The National Weather Service in Grand Junction has issued a winter storm warning for much of the West Slope ahead of a major weather system expected in the area starting Thursday.