Anoka-Hennepin’s enrollment levels continue their downward trend, but losses are projected to be less drastic than expected in the 2014-2015 school year.
The district estimates 36,445 students will enroll in 2014, 201 fewer than this school year.
In the last 10 years, the district has lost 3,500 students since its peak enrollment of 40,151 students in 2004.
Though last year saw a drop of only 112 students, recent years have seen declines of upwards of 600 students. Though the district doesn’t want to see a reduction of any kind, a loss of only 201 is “good news,” according to Neil Klund-Schubert, principal on special assignment with information services.
Klund-Schubert presented enrollment figures to the board at its work session March 10.
The district analyzes building permits, live births in Anoka and Hennepin counties, census data and more to determine enrollment projections years into the future, Klund-Schubert said.
By 2018-2019, Anoka-Hennepin should hit a bit of an enrollment “plateau,” he said.
The implementation of all-day kindergarten will help boost enrollment in primary schools this year.
K-5 enrollment is projected to swell by 285 students – 111 of whom are added kindergartners.
Middle school enrollment is expected to increase by 15 students, while high school enrollment is estimated to be down 261 students.
“It’s that declining enrollment is propagating through the system,” Klund-Schubert said. “That’s opening up room in high schools,” which is positive in terms of in-district transfer and open enrollment requests, he said.
The board asked Chief Technology and Information Officer Joel VerDuin to launch a study to determine possible effects of increasing the in-district transfer cap from 2 percent. It was increased from 1 percent in 2010.
Board Clerk Scott Wenzel was more concerned with open enrollment options than in-district transfers. Shuffling cookies around on the plate doesn’t necessarily help the district, Wenzel said. “What are we doing to put new cookies on the plate? Because new cookies bring money.”
Board Chairman Tom Heidemann said that while finances are always an important consideration, money isn’t everything. Serving constituents and providing them with choices are crucial also, he said.
Wenzel’s cookie metaphor was adopted by others at the work session.
“All cookies are not equal,” Superintendent Dennis Carlson said, asking decision makers to be careful to prevent “brain-drain” out of any one school.
Declining numbers at Coon Rapids High School – the school is projected to record nearly triple the losses of other district high schools this year – have made it difficult for music ensembles to survive.
The board didn’t attempt to solve problems like this one March 10, but wanted to discuss enrollment quandaries further with additional information from VerDuin.
With new developments planned in the north metro, young families may be moving in, board members agreed.
Growth anticipated in Dayton and Ramsey was mentioned specifically.
Carlson would like to see a facility task force review options for accommodating increased numbers in elementary schools already at capacity after District 11 closed eight schools in 2010, five elementary schools and one kindergarten center among them.
Creating kindergarten centers, expanding elementary schools and reconverting Riverview, Sorteberg and L.O. Jacob buildings were all brought up at the work session.
Heidemann expressed his concern about closing eight schools and having this discussion less than five years later. “I just want to make sure we’re not sending our community on a roller coaster ride,” he said.
A facilities study would allow for strategic development going forward, Chief Operations Officer Chuck Holden said.
“I think it’s a very complex puzzle,” he said.
Olivia Koester is at firstname.lastname@example.org