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Upcoming IC school district enrollment lower than predicted

IOWA CITY- Iowa City school board members were slightly underwhelmed by the distric’ts enrollment numbers presented at the board’s Tuesday, Nov. 9 meeting
Student enrollment for the 2014-15 school year increased by 156 students in K-12, bringing official certified enrollment to 13,050. However, this increase was not as high as originally projected.
Iowa City Community School District (ICCSD) Chief Operating Officer David Dude expressed disappointment in the discrepancy, and hoped to have more answers for the board in February. He and other officials are working to figure out if the variance was caused by how the projections were made or if unpredicted factors in the community played a role.
Director Tuyet Dorau worried that this could point to an issue of decreasing enrollment in the school district and students choosing to open enroll into other districts.
If this were the case, there would be several financial implications the district would have to look into.
Superintendent Stephen Murley and officials are currently working with educational facility planning firm DeJONG-RICHTER to figure out if this year was an anomaly or the start of a trend. They will create two projections: one based on students who live in the district; and the other based on those who attend school in the ICCSD. Murley said having this information would have an impact on class sizes, staffing and the budget.
“Enrollment projections one of the huge inputs into facility master plan,” Murley said. “
However, Dude was hopeful that new information provided by the Iowa Department of Health would create a more accurate picture of what enrollment will look like now and in the future.
Now, birth data will be provided on an address level to the school district, which can increase accuracy in predicting enrollment in the school district. It will allow the district to figure out where exactly a student was born and where they reside, giving a more complete picture of enrollment and trends.
The report in February will also include stability and mobility information, which shows how many students are in schools for the whole school year versus how many students enter and exit the school. This data is given along with the open enrollment information.
Currently, students and their families who leave the ICCSD for open enrollment have the option of filling out an exit survey, though the compliance rate on the survey is low. Murley said the survey is best used for “anecdotal feedback” when students leave schools but still live in the district.
The enrollment report also included a draft on class sizes in district schools. According to the report, Iowa City High School had 59 classes over target size, while Iowa City West High School only had 28, a discrepancy Director Patti Fields found troubling and frustrating since the board can do little to address the issue in February when the report is finalized.
“Having over a 30 class difference, that’s concerning,” Fields said. “That’s a significant difference in class size and options…As we continue to look at our budget and where we’re going, how long can we put that much pressure on a building or either one of the buildings?”
Board member Orville Townsend’s fear was with teachers having enough resources to deal with larger class sizes. He hoped when teachers express concern for their ability to teach, that their issues are not going unnoticed.
Murley said the schools look at the frequency of course offerings and how the courses fit into students’ individual schedules in deciding when to allow classes to run larger. He assured the board that these decisions are jointly made with building principals, department chairpersons, and the teachers themselves.
On the flip side, Murley and other administrators also look at courses that are under the enrollment cap, either because they are just starting out or their enrollment is lower than past years. That becomes a decision for administrators on whether to continue to course. If a course isn’t continued, it provides the school the opportunity to move staff into those areas that are over the ideal size.
More discussion on the enrollment data and class size will continue at the board’s next meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 9.