Milton school officials believe enrollment will increase over time

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Jim Dayton
Sunday, October 29, 2017

MILTON—Milton school officials are optimistic district enrollment will continue to grow thanks to recent economic development in the region.

Sustainable growth in Rock County could mean more families moving to the region for jobs. If this migration leads to more students in the Milton School District, it would support the district's argument that more space is needed to fix crowded classrooms.

District Administrator Tim Schigur said he was “relatively confident” that enrollment would increase in the next several years, despite a 2015 study that said otherwise.

The study, performed by UW-Madison's Applied Population Laboratory, predicted enrollment would stagnate and perhaps decline years later. The study factored in historical enrollment, birth rate, housing development and population trends.

That still does not sufficiently account for migration into the district because the study could not predict several businesses moving to the area, Schigur said.

“There's a lot of growth happening in Rock County—Janesville, Beloit, Milton. People are moving here,” he said. “Dollar General, Diamond Assets, other businesses are bringing people here and those people are relocating here. Some of them have kids and are moving into the School District of Milton.”

Dollar General opened its warehouse and Diamond Assets moved from Janesville to Milton after the study was completed. It was the same case for Advantage Homes and Red Hawk Farms, two housing developments that could add nearly 150 homes to the district, Schigur said.

The 2015 study was done in conjunction with a facility needs assessment by Plunkett Raysich Architects. It also helped the district do some long-term financial planning because enrollment numbers affect state aid, he said.

The study, which cost $3,000, used four projection methods. The three academic years since the study was completed have all yielded more students than the highest estimate.

The school district now considers increasing enrollment a trend. It might redo the study in a few years to account for the changes, but the district has not scrapped the projection data it currently has.

“I think that the essence of the study is solid,” Schigur said. “It's just that when you think about all the different things the communities around us are doing, the (Milton Area Chamber of Commerce), Forward Janesville, advertisement and promotion of the region economically, it has altered some of the financial landscape.”

If enrollment suddenly plummets, the district has been fiscally conservative enough to withstand economic ebbs and flows, Schigur said.

He pointed out that Janesville's busiest intersection is the crossroads of Highways 26 and 14. Half of that corner is within the Milton School District, allowing it to capitalize on some of Janesville's north side growth.

Regional economic success has defied the study's projected stagnation. It's helped reinvent the area after GM's departure in 2008, Communications Supervisor Jerry Schuetz said.

Schuetz has lived in Milton for 10 years. During the throes of the recession, Schuetz never saw any new homes built in his subdivision. This year, he saw four.

He believes it's evidence for the district's argument for a new high school.

“There's a connectedness that the success of others impacts our school district. The growth and development of Milton as a whole, its need for a renovated public library, police station, city hall or public works building, is indicative of growth and development,” Schuetz said. “The same pressures that exist on other agencies of government exist on our schools as well.

“Milton is not the same place it was in 1964.”

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