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gonna need a bigger boat

CCA Enrollment projections continue up

OXFORD – The Clear Creek Amana (CCA) Community School District, the “Home of the Clippers,” continues to see enrollment growth, which has led to the construction of a fourth elementary school, additions to another, expansions of the high school and a fifth elementary to begin construction this year along with other projects across the district. A casual look around the district shows housing developments springing up like dandelions. And according to Rob Schwarz, it’s only going to continue.
Schwarz is the CEO of RSP and Associates, the consulting firm retained by the district for enrollment forecasts. RSP also guided the elementary school boundary realignment project ahead of the opening of Tiffin Elementary. Schwarz provided his firm’s latest enrollment projections to the school board of directors at its regular monthly meeting Wednesday, March 21, at Clear Creek Elementary (CCE) in Oxford.
Schwarz cut right to the chase.
RSP’s forecast shows the district growing by approximately 1,000 students over the next five years at a rate of 150-300 per year. Capacity challenges naturally come with the increase, and he stated North Bend Elementary is over its instructional capacity (the ideal number of students) currently and will exceed its structural capacity (the maximum that can be accommodated through repurposing spaces into instructional areas) in the 2019-2020 academic year. Tiffin Elementary is also over its instructional capacity and will reach or exceed structural capacity in the 2021-22 school year. District-wide, elementary space will reach its limit in 2021-22, he added. The high school will feel the effects of the wave moving through the lower grades in 2022-23 as its instructional capacity is reached.
That’s the “what.”
The “how” and “why” lies in “significant areas of vacant land that when they are developed will have a drastic effect on future enrollment.” Coralville, North Liberty and Tiffin are hotbeds of development with little to no sign of a halt coming anytime soon. RSP, which has a documented accuracy of 97 percent, bases projections on historic enrollment trends as well as frequent contact with city and county officials as well as the old-school technique of physically driving around the district and looking at where development is or will be taking place.
A complicated mathematical formula is employed accounting for a number of factors. RSP was 97.3 percent accurate in its CCA elementary projections for the 2016-17 year as they projected 1,284 students and the district ended up with 1,320. The middle school was forecast to have 529, but only 499 materialized giving RSP a 94 percent accuracy. However, the firm projected 635 students for the high school and nailed it with 100 percent accuracy. District wide, RSP projected 2,448 students. In actuality there were 2,454, giving RSP a 99.8 percent accuracy overall.
Schwarz said RSP’s conclusions are that enrollments will continue over the next five years as new developments are built and younger aged households move there. Future kindergarten classes will likely exceed 300 students, elementary instructional capacity will be exceeded district-wide by 2021-22 and high school instructional capacity will be exceeded by 2022-23.
The district has been anticipating and planning for increased enrollment and successfully passed a bond issue last year which will build a second elementary school in Tiffin, expand parking at the middle school-high school complex in Tiffin, replace the old gym at CCE and provide security upgrades in various buildings. A new high school is on the radar to replace the current facility. The new elementary in Tiffin (to open in 2019) will house fourth- and fifth-graders making North Bend, Tiffin, CCE and Amana kindergarten through third-grade buildings. Eventually, the current middle school will become an intermediate level building with the current high school becoming the middle school. An additional elementary school will also likely be needed.
Schwarz showed a chart with anticipated residential development in four specific projects. Park Place is expected to have 149 single-family homes and 1,500-2,000 high-density units, Prairie Village will have 60 single family and 18 multi-family units, Tiffin Heights is expected to provide 225 single family homes and Hunt Club is anticipated to site 280 multi-family units for 2,732 new housing units over the next five years with the caveat that development will depend on residential interest. Factors which could impact residential interest include the state of the economy, employment, interest rates and home foreclosures.
“Significant land is available for development and many developers are meeting with the cities (Coralville, North Liberty and Tiffin) to start new projects,” Schwarz said.
Somewhat surprisingly, areas in North Liberty within CCA’s district (North Liberty is split between CCA and the Iowa City Community School District, which opened Liberty High School in North Liberty last August) have been slower to develop than areas in Tiffin. According to zoning and comprehensive master plans, there are plans for significant residential development in these communities and permit activity should be between 200 and 350 units per year over the next three years. “The larger years will be connected to more multi-family projects being constructed and other residential areas coming online,” he added.
It all adds up to the continuation of a trend that has been 15 years in the making. The district had 1,361 students in 2004-05 with 3,432 anticipated in the 2022-23 school year.
The elementary grades have historically had the greatest numbers and the trend is expected to continue. There were 610 elementary students in 2004-05, 1,320 currently and 1,826 are expected in 2022-23. The middle school has grown from 336 (2004-05) to 499 and is anticipated to reach 705 (2022-23). The high school has gone from 415 (2004-05) to 635 and should reach 901 (2022-23). Not included in RSP’s numbers are the 65 students currently in Little Clippers, Sprouts Academy, home school/dual enrolled or in the Home School Assistance Program. The district has been working with private providers for pre-kindergarten services.
Schwarz left the board with a number of considerations, including using the March Kindergarten Roundup as a benchmark for projection accuracy, reviewing the district’s transfer policy (open enrollment and insufficient space policies) and their subsequent impact on each building and to utilize the enrollment model to assist with planning for staffing needs for the following year.
In addition, he pointed out the type of residential development and how affordable it is will determine likely location and number of students. “The last few years have seen considerable multi-family, and more of that is in the works with typically fewer K-12 students in these types of developments,” Schwarz said. He recommended annually reviewing enrollment projections, determining the criteria to address capacity issues and timing for future school construction, remodeling or attendance areas. Schwarz also reminded the board to communicate with the community so it may understand the district’s commitment to ensuring educational equity and excellence, “so the students of all races and backgrounds achieve high levels and graduate prepared for success in college, careers and life in a diverse and rapidly changing world.”