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Demographer & Realtor Talk Future Enrollment with Board of Education

Presenters say Board of Education needs to consider several factors when predicting enrollment numbers.

A planner and local realtor forecasted District 113’s future enrollment numbers for Board of Education members at Monday night’s meeting.

“The further you look into the future, the more likely you are to be wrong," Jean Sogin, demographer, warned District 113 Board members about looking too far down the road.

Sogin, a Highland Park resident was one of two volunteer presenters at the Board of Education meeting. Nancy Karp, a realtor in the area as well as a community member, was also on hand to take a look at local housing trends.

"Demographers look at past trends and try and project the future," Sogin said. She's worked on similar projections for other school systems including District 112.

Sogin explained a key demographic concept called the survival ratio and said school population projections are based on past experience of year to year survival ratios.  District 113’s survival ratios tend to be very close to 1.0.  That means if there were 300 second graders in year 1, you will have 300 third graders the next year.  However, survival ratios are greater than 1 in grades 1, 6 and 9, the years when students are most likely to transfer. "Overall, these are really stable survival ratios," she commented about District 113's current numbers. "My assumption is that everyone who is at the party is staying at the party," she added in reference to her theory most students currently enrolled in District 113 and its feeder schools will remain there.

Since 2008, class sizes at Deerfield and Highland Park high schools have numbered in the 900s. However, Sogin's numbers show class sizes decreasing in coming years. According to Sogin's predictions, student enrollment will drop at District 113 by about 12 percent over the next eight years. Sogin explained that individual class sizes will continue to show small increases from kindergarten to 12th grade, but they’re starting off with a smaller amount of students, which eventually leads to a drop in the overall student body.

Sogin and Karp blamed that decrease partly on a decline in births in the area and a significant cut in housing sales. However, Karp said she doesn’t think those numbers will stick.

Karp told Board members that the housing market bottomed out in 2009 but things have gotten better in 2010 and 2011. According to her statistics, the number of single family homes that sold in District 113 in 2011 was 483, compared to 357 homes in 2009. "I'm very encouraged that we are going to see more properties sell," she said and believes once that happens student enrollment will get a bump. "I think we will see more people coming into the District." Karp also mentioned that there is a large percentage of empty nesters in District 113’s community and schools should see a jump in enrollment once they sell and younger families move in.

Some Board members voiced their concerns about basing enrollment numbers off the past few years, which included a severe economic downtown and a crashing housing market. They also noted that even when there is a drop in numbers, it doesn’t translate into fewer sections or needing fewer classrooms because of class averaging norms.

Sogin agreed the Board has to consider several other factors in its long term planning since it’s not clear if this is a temporary or long term problem. “I’m just looking at the numbers,” she said and explained her predictions are based on move-in numbers from the past, not an assumption of what they will be in the future.

Sogin noted that you can look at her data in a number of different ways.  “This decrease does not necessarily mean there should be a cut in facility size or staffing,” she said. “The graduating class of 2023 is this year’s first grade class. We don’t have any reason to assume that those kids are leaving,” she added and voiced that if it is a temporary problem, kindergarten class sizes in the area should show big increases in the next few years.

Karp and Sogin’s presentation can be found on District 113’s website.

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