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D-428 to study future student demographics

DeKALB – Before DeKalb School District 428 leaders change elementary school boundary lines, they want a better understanding of how the student population will shift during the next decade.

District 428 board members hired the Ohio-based firm Cropper GIS for $9,500 to do a districtwide demographic study that will give insight into areas where the district will undergo significant changes in population and enrollment.

Boundary changes that would affect where students go to elementary school had been discussed for as early as the 2014-15 school year, but school officials now say boundary changes will not happen that quickly.

“First we need to see this information,” Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance Andrea Gorla said. “This will give us an idea of how we need to shift due to overcrowding.”

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Student Services Doug Moeller said the district also would wait because of the anticipated move of pre-kindergarten and early childhood classes from the elementary schools to Huntley Middle School in 2014-15. The move will open about seven classrooms across Brooks, Jefferson, Littlejohn and Tyler elementary schools. Demographers will take this move into consideration when performing the study.

“Any boundary changes we make, we want to be confident they will be in place for five to 10 years,” Moeller said.

The district last altered school attendance boundaries in 2011, when it also instituted a class-size cap of 28 students at the elementary schools.

The district has a handful of seats in classrooms and has “overflowed” 120 students from their home schools to others because of a lack of seats, primarily in kindergarten.

Cropper will create forecast populations for 2015, 2020 and 2025 by age, sex and total population for the elementary schools and the district as a whole. The firm also will give enrollment forecasts by grade from the 2014-05 school year through the 2023-24 school year. The study will be based on data from the 2010 U.S. census.

Cropper will also look at students’ socioeconomic backgrounds.

“It’s not just about getting the right amount of students,” Moeller said. “It’s about making sure there is a balance of diversity in the schools.”

Moeller added keeping siblings in the same school and adhering to the classroom cap will be priorities when any boundary changes are implemented.

Cropper performed a comprehensive study for the district in 2009 that provided the district with enrollment projection data through 2014-15 based on the figures from the 2000 census. The Finance Facilities Advisory Committee has used the data when deciding where to spend a $21 million construction grant.

“It has been such an important tool for us in planning,” Gorla said. “We are hitting capacity and trying to determine where the growth is going to be.”

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