Margaret Huron: Past, present and future enrollment numbers
The Steamboat Springs School District has employed three different professional demographers over the past five years to assist with its master plan for schools. Similar to meteorologists for weather forecasting, these professionals use various methods and models to forecast the future.
Birth rate and student cohorts are single measures in one method of forecasting, one that has always been taken into account by the district. However, they are not the sole factors. From extensive reports in 2014, 2016 and 2019 each of these demographers has forecast an increase in student enrollment for subsequent five-year periods, which is a standard time span for demographic studies.
Reviewing the past 50 years of enrollment data, times of high growth, low growth and sometimes reduction of student population are evident. On average however, student enrollment has grown. Since 2000, the growth rate has averaged 1.5%. Through good and bad economic conditions, our student population has continued to grow.
This growth will continue when considering housing developments in the upcoming years. Another affordable housing project is set to open in the summer of 2020, the Sunlight neighborhood is growing rapidly as are planned housing developments at Walton Creek, Sundance, Overlook and the West Steamboat Neighborhood by Brynn Grey.
The last new additional school building was opened almost 40 years ago when 1,446 students were enrolled. Today, we have about 1,200 more students, even taking into account the introduction of the Montessori charter school in 2017, whose more than 130 students will likely enroll in our middle and high schools.
Children require adequate space for learning and new programs. The school board has heard from the community that maintaining smaller class sizes is critical for our schools and voters have shown support for that feature. Responsible master planning begins before school capacities are reached.
The current plan began in 2014 and has been refined through voter feedback, surveys, advisory committees, community outreach and professional consultants. Our community continues to increase in population.
As a board of education director, I have visited schools and witnessed the crowded common areas, 20-minute lunch breaks for children to accommodate limited space, minimal room for group or specialized learning and teacher offices or meeting spaces in former janitor closets. Schedule a visit and see for yourself. Above all, make the children of this town and their learning environments a priority that benefits everyone.
Steamboat Springs Board of Education director
The opinions expressed in this letter are my own and may or may not be shared by my fellow board members.
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