Enrollment in Evansville School District projected to decrease over next 10 years

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Ashley McCallum
Thursday, November 2, 2017

EVANSVILLE—Enrollment in the Evansville School District is expected to decrease over the next 10 years based on projections from a UW-Madison study.

Results from the study were presented at the Citizens Advisory Committee meeting Wednesday. Committee members assess district needs and determine whether referendum might be necessary.

By the 2026-27 school year, enrollment in the district is expected to decrease by 286 students, according to the study. This does not account for fluctuations due to open enrollment.

Enrollment decreased for the first time since 2013 this year with the loss of 31 students, according to data presented by Bray Architects.

Decreasing numbers might be attributed to the growing desire of young families to live in urban areas like Madison and Milwaukee, said Matt Wolfert of Bray Architects.

District Administrator Jerry Roth said increasing enrollment has become a competition.

More students are leaving the district than coming in, Roth said. He estimates about 50 to 60 students left the district through open enrollment this year.

Students leaving the district are often doing so for virtual schools or larger districts where their parents might work such as Janesville or Oregon.

Districts that are losing students often use operational referendums to make up for lost revenue and to remain competitive, Wolfert said.

“This is why a lot of neighboring schools that are declining in enrollment are going to referendum: to stay alive,” Roth said.

The district presented to the committee a list of potential items to be funded by an operational referendum that could help recruit and retain students.

These items did not include facility maintenance or the possibility of building a new school, Roth said. Such work would be part of a capital referendum, not an operational one.

“(This is a) very preliminary document with things we hope we are willing to do,” Roth said.

Items totaled $6.7 million, but that does not mean a referendum will be drafted for that amount, Roth said.

Operational items presented will be included in a survey for community members to determine whether an operational referendum is needed and if so, how much money the community is willing to spend.

Technology maintenance, employee compensation, grounds crew updates and additional staffing for extracurricular activities were some of the areas considered for referendum support.

Maintaining a curriculum based in technology and boosting extracurricular activities can be a selling point to retain students or attract new ones, as discussed during the meeting.

One member of the committee noted that students might leave a district to compete on better sports teams and assume that academics are generally the same.

That’s one reason increasing coaching staffing is an item on the survey, Roth said.

Roth estimated the district could serve an additional 100 to 120 students.

A student capacity study will be conducted by Bray Architects in the future to determine if that estimate is accurate.

No decisions regarding referendum have been made, Roth said. Everything the committee discussed is preliminary and will remain so until a survey is conducted.

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