01STOCK_DDHS

DELAVAN

Delavan-Darien School District enrollment is expected to continue dropping for the next five years, according to the district’s projections.

If the projections hold, the district will have nearly 770 fewer students in the 2023-24 school year than it did in 2013-14 school year, a drop of about 32 percent.

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Officials discussed the projections at the school board’s meeting earlier this week. School board President Jeff Scherer said the expected enrollment decline is a result of dropping birth rates, which is a statewide and national trend.

According to the Wisconsin Policy Forum, the state’s birth rate is the lowest it has been in three decades, and the fertility rate has steadily declined since the Great Recession. The number of births also has fallen since the recession, according to the state Department of Health Services.

According to the policy forum, Wisconsin now has fewer women of child-bearing age than in it did 1989 despite an increase in overall population.

To adjust for declining enrollment, Scherer said, the district must downsize its administration and staff. Already, the district has eliminated the director of dual language and director of occupations positions.

Scherer also pointed to Superintendent Jill Sorbie, who previously was the district’s director of curriculum and instruction. Sorbie is now performing the duties of both positions.

“There may be more (cuts) in the future,” Scherer said. “We just have to see what the enrollment does and what our resources are.”

Anthony Klein, the district’s business administrator, wrote in an email that the enrollment projections consider the “survival rate” of students who move on from one grade to the next and determine an average rate over the past six years.

Klein wrote that factors “can and hopefully will change,” such as fewer students who open enroll out of the district and new housing and business development in the area.

Klein wrote that the model “has informed our decision to invest greater resources in marketing the district to reduce open enrollment out and make the community a more attractive location for young families.”

Open enrollment has plagued the district in recent years. Nearly 160 students applied to enroll out of the district at the end of last school year, and about 80 students in 4-year-old kindergarten and kindergarten enrolled out of the district before classes started this school year.

Over six years, the district has seen about a 16 percent drop in enrollment. This school year, the district reported having 59 fewer students in 4-year-old kindergarten than graduating seniors last year.

In an effort to curtail falling enrollment, the district is looking to establish an educational day care center for children ages 6 weeks to 3 years old at Wileman Elementary. Sorbie has said the program could attract new students to the district and act as a pipeline into 4-year-old kindergarten.

Still, Scherer said, there are simply fewer children being born in the district, and there isn’t much officials can do to mitigate that.

“Unless new people move into the district, or we’re able ... (to) get people to enroll into our district, we are faced with a demographic change that is going to mean less students in the future,” Scherer said.

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