OXFORD– A draft report produced by a University of Iowa professor and one of his graduate students uses scientific methodology to pinpoint where enrollment growth is occurring in the Clear Creek Amana (CCA) school district, and maps-out the likely continuation of that growth.
Gerard Rushton, Ph.D. and Geoffrey Smith, M.S. were asked by the district’s facilities committee to study population patterns and enrollment trends. The school board of directors approved the $4,000 study during their November meeting. Rushton and Smith provided a draft report and presentation at the Wednesday, Dec. 12, meeting of the facilities committee, held at Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford.
The 21-page draft report contains several charts, which point toward a continuation of people moving into the district over the next ten years. Gerard cautioned the report was an interim draft, with the final report due Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, for presentation at the Wednesday, Jan. 9, 2013, facilities committee meeting. Gerard noted the final numbers will be “somewhat different,” based on a clarification relating to the board’s policy for closing a building to open enrollment in addition to some other factors such as cross-checking results and making changes based on feedback.
The draft notes, “we ask readers to note that projections for the future are always contingent on future events that may occur nationally, as well as in the district, and that future enrollments will also be influenced by decisions of the CCA board, its staff, and many other people who work to make the district successful in educating its students.”
Rushton told the group, “the future is the future, there is no crystal ball.” He also cautioned against knee-jerk reactions to the numbers. “When you say, ‘we’ve got this new group of people, we’ll build a school for them,’ that’s a disastrous policy.” Rushton suggested instead, that the committee and school board look at funneling students into a common location rather than investing in a network of neighborhood school buildings.
The pair took birth data by county and community, housing data (single family and multi-family housing, both existing and under construction) as well as the district’s enrollment data; and fed it all into a computer program which analyzes human geography trends and patterns.
Smith and Rushton reviewed population trends in the district over a ten-to-eleven year period. Rushton noted the numbers were, “adding up to considerable growth.” CCA has grown overall (K-12) at an annual rate of 3.82 percent from 2002 to 2012. Two surges were found, the first an 8.33 percent increase from 2009-2010, the other a 7.75 percent increase from 2011 to 2012. Looking at the three-year period of 2009 to 2012, an annual rate-of-growth of 6.11 percent was found. “During this period, each grade increased in size annually except the ninth through 11th grade,” the report said. The report notes, “Historically, the 10th to 11th grade progression rate is the lowest, -2 percent, except during 2009 to 2012 when ninth to 10th was the lowest.”
Not surprisingly, the report found the kindergarten class, “has almost doubled in size from 2003 to 2012.” Smith and Rushton found the total K-12 enrollment grew almost 45 percent from 2002 to 2012. They also made a prediction. “If the current kindergarten class were to grow at the same rate over the next ten years that each of the grades grew during each of the past ten years, it will grow 38.6 percent from 178 to 246.”
Open enrollment policy may temper this growth however. Smith and Rushton acknowledged the closing of North Bend Elementary to new open enrollments in. Students continuing in the school, and their siblings are still, per district policy, able to enroll. The school board of directors also closed Clear Creek Elementary in Oxford to new open enrollment earlier this year. The report does not take this more recent action into account, and is one of the factors, which will be reflected in the final report.
Open enrollment accounts for 263 students currently: 104 at the high school, 42 at the middle school, 35 at Amana Elementary, 30 in Oxford and 52 at North Bend. The report shows the highest growth rate in sixth to seventh grade, at 9.8 percent. They theorize this is due to Iowa City School District students open-enrolling in to attend the CCA middle school rather than an Iowa City junior high.
The report states the structural capacity of the three elementary schools is 1,400, and projects the district will reach 90 percent of that capacity (1,260) by the 2020-2021 school year. It adds the middle school is already 16 students over its capacity, a condition Principal Brad Fox acknowledged.
Fox said they are currently cozy, but managing even though it means some classrooms are packed tight with students. Some classes have 25 students in them, which Fox said is too many, but added, “we’re used to it.” Fox said having 450 students in the building would not be good for the kids, but it could be done if we had to. Fox added there is still some room available in the middle school, but still means “squeezing” kids in. He expressed amazement the building held 500 when it was the high school, but added they also utilized portable buildings and the Echo building, otherwise known as West Campus, or the transitional building.
Smith and Rushton also project the high school will be over 90 percent of capacity in 2018-2019. Their projections are for over 2,000 students in the 2014-2015 school year, steadily increasing to just over 3,000 in the 2022-2023 school year.
“In no year does the proportional enrollment growth exceed that from 2009 to 2012,” the report said. “In absolute terms, the district will grow by 143 and 149 K-12 students in 2018 and 2020, surpassing the growth of 132 K-12 students in 2010.” Smith and Rushton anticipate enrollment in Oxford to generally hold steady with a slight increase while North Bend will continue to see enrollment growth. While the report focused primarily on the eastern end of the district, the pair see enrollment at Amana Elementary as holding steady; not significantly increasing, nor decreasing.
The draft also looks at existing and approved housing developments and found two developments close to North Bend with 218 and 122 units each. Superintendent Denise Schares was already well aware of developments in the area and joked, “just driving through there, I kinda hyperventilate. When that credit union went in, I just said a prayer of thanks, because I thought that could’ve been multi-family housing, and I thought, ‘oh gosh.’” Dr. Schares added the credit union will be a great addition to the area, and provide some breathing room for the district.
Dr. Schares also reminded the committee the addition of six classrooms to North Bend was a very immediate need, and not a permanent solution to enrollment needs. In addition to the new rooms, three other spaces in the building have been repurposed, which Schares said leaves some room to grow, while hoping for at least a year of growing into that building.
Following Rushton’s presentation board member Aimee Pitlick emphasized to the committee that the board is not, boxed-into a new elementary in Tiffin, and are looking at all options and asking the committee for any recommendations. A proposal and preliminary plan from 2010 for a multi-year, multi-phase renovation and expansion of the middle school was brought up, prompting Pitlick to say she was not comfortable with spending $20 million on the project. She also encouraged the committee members to visit Clear Creek Elementary and the middle school during a typical school day to see how crowded they are. Fellow board member Bob Broghammer emphasized to the committee that at this point, “no idea is too outlandish to consider…anything is open.”