WCSD enrollment decline slowing, According to study

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Lorne Woods of Davis Demographics talks about the study his company performed on the future of Warren County School District.

The enrollment of Warren County School District has hit the tail end of the bell curve, according to a demographics study.

According to the study by Davis Demographics, enrollment in the district will continue to decline, but at a trickle.

According to the projection, there will be about 115 fewer students in the district in 2027 than there were in 2017.

The most serious decline will take place in the northern attendance area, according to Senior School Planner Lorne Woods. “Eisenhower is the place where the decline is occurring.”

“Any time you’re looking at doing a master facilities study, you want to do a good job of creating the baseline,” Jon Thomas of Thomas and Williamson Program Management said. “You’re going to see a projection that’s going slightly down.”

The study took into consideration birth rates, enrollment, relocation, development, and recent trends in the district.

With respect to the birth rate, about 75 percent as many children go to county kindergartens as are born in the county, Woods said. “Young families are having kids here and then moving on later.”

Real estate development is also problematic. “Sure enough, there is no development,” he said.

“I see a district that’s static… stable,” Woods said. “There’s no fire to put out.”

School board members had some trouble accepting that information after seeing the district’s enrollment drop from 7,200 to 4,300 over 20 years.

“What makes us think the big decline is over?” Arthur Stewart asked. “What’s different today that causes our line to be horizontal?”

Davis did not take that long-term history of decline into account.

“We could go through and make some estimates based on what has happened the last 20 years,” Woods said. “That’s not our methodology. The area’s declining, yeah. We don’t see the sky falling.”

The study considered a few years of student populations, he said, not 20. “I’d rather look at what’s happening with your actual student population. The last two census were poorly reported.”

“The economic environment is not conducive to keeping children or young adults here,” he said. “You have a community that’s perpetually getting older.”

Stewart said he expects to field questions about the study. “Your shiny new projections show you’ve bottomed out,” he said. “I’m asking you to arm us with the man-on-the-street answer.”

Thomas stepped in as the man-on-the-street. “It looks to me like the Baby Boom is just going out of the system,” he said. “It’s going back to the way things were normally supported.”