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Enrollment report predicts increase

Despite recent shifts in the housing market and economy, the most recent school enrollment projections show an increase in enrollment in the St. Croix Central School District over the next 10 years.

At the Dec. 13 school board meeting, Richelle Winkler, a demographer and associate researcher at the University of Wisconsin-Madison shared a PowerPoint presentation which highlighted key points of the 33-page school enrollment projection report.

The report contained four different projection models. A baseline projection, which takes into account actual enrollment over the past 10 years; "Two-year trend projection," based on the past two years' enrollment figures; and the rebound projection, which "assumes the slow enrollment growth associated with the economy and housing market will continue for the next three years before picking back up," explained Winkler.

Superintendent David Bradley told the News he chose to focus on the two-year trend model, as it uses the grade progression ratios from the last two years.

The report stated, "These last two years significantly capture the recent downturn in the housing market and the economy."

Overall, the model assumes very little new migration of children and families to the area over the next decade.

"With the recent rates weighed more heavily, K-12 enrollment in St. Croix Central School District is still projected to increase steadily over the next decade from 1,372 students in the Fall of 2010 to 1,695 students in the Fall of 2020 (an increase of 24 percent)," according to the report.

Much of the projected increase is due to a relatively large number of children at the younger grade levels who are already enrolled in the school system and the large number of births that have occurred in the district the last five years.

In her presentation, Winkler told the school board she believed enrollment for the next five years was fairly predictable.

While enrollment should increase at all grade levels, Winkler said elementary school enrollment numbers are likely to increase over the next three years based on birth rates in the area. She projected a large kindergarten class the next three years.

According to the school board meeting minutes, "Enrollment growth will continue to increase at a moderate rate, based on the kindergarten numbers and the fact that 'out migration' from the district has stopped, while families are continuing to move into the district, although at a slow rate."

Bradley said the school board will "explore all options" for dealing with the projected increase in enrollment.

The school board has decided to have architect Vaughn Dirks put together a classroom-needs analysis, based on the various enrollment projection scenarios. The board hopes to have the information from Dirks ready for the Jan. 10 school board meeting.

Gretta Stark

Gretta Stark has been a reporter for the River Falls Journal since July of 2013. She previously worked as a reporter for the New Richmond News from June 2012 to July 2013. She holds a BA in Print and Electronic Media from Wartburg College.

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