Study adjusts NT enrollment projections
New Trier student section enjoys a Trevians' touchdownduring afootball game last fall. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
Updated: January 3, 2013 12:24PM
NORTHFIELD — After initially believing enrollment would begin to drop, the New Trier High School board reviewed demographic trends and enrollment projections after student enrollment actually increased this school year.
The report, compiled by University of North Carolina professor John Kasarda, has been given to the board on a biennial basis for more than 20 years, and Kasarda’s numbers look very different compared to what he predicted two years earlier.
Previously, Kasarda estimated the district’s enrollment would fall below 4,000 students by the 2017-18 academic year. His new projections don’t anticipate a drop below 4,000 until at least the 2021-22 school year.
The report predicts district enrollment will decrease by 112 students over the next five years instead of the predicted 220 from the 2010 report.
“It is interesting to think about our history and that rapid increase in (enrollment) the 1960s and ’70s, the rapid decrease in the ’80s and the slow climb of the ’90s and 2000s,” said Superintendent Linda Yonke. “Now we’re kind of leveling off. We’re looking at the challenges we face with our facilities.”
Kasarda looks at student enrollment, birth rates and housing patterns throughout the district, including enrollment history in each feeder district. Though there is a drop in birth rates and kindergarten enrollment, there appears to be an uptick in housing turnover within district 203.
“The tricky thing with our enrollment is housing,” Yonke said. “His trends say residents tend to stay longer in their homes and the key to us is when they turnover to younger families. In the past year it seems to be picking up again. (Kasarda) indicates only looking at kindergarten classes is not enough. We must look at what will happen in terms of housing turnover.”
In the 2010 report Kasarda estimated this school year’s total enrollment would be 4,196, but actual enrollment was 33 students greater.
“It may not seem like a large number, but it is significant in terms of our staffing and budget,” Yonke said. “We don’t know if this was an anomaly with this freshman class or a new trend.”
The tricky thing for the district now is how to use the information and predict student enrollment to remain on top of potential cost increases or decreases.
“If we don’t hit a second bad economy and interest rates stay low and unemployment stays low maybe people are moving into the district when their kids are 10 years old instead of 3, 4 or 5 years old,” said board member Mac Harris. “I’m not sure what the answer is to stay on top of that.”