Decatur School Enrollment Closes In On Projection, Kindergarten Grows


You all may remember the post from a week or so ago quoting Neighbor Newspapers saying that CSD enrollment was at 97.5% of the projection?  Welp, in the run up to the start of school, enrollments begin to flood in again.  Here are the latest figures courtesy of the Superintendent Phyllis Edwards’ materials for the next School Board meeting.

As noted in the post title, while the projection seems to be spot on for another school year, Kindergarten has grown from last year and has already surpassed this year’s estimate by 36 students. However, it still remains in the realm of the size of the 400+ students in each grade from K-3.

The Superintendent’s letter to the Board also includes these two paragraphs about enrollment with a note on annexation…

Our enrollment continues to rise.  A new updated sheet is included for your review.  During the second and third weeks of July, just prior to the opening of school, staff has registered over 100 families.

I will employ Tom Sayre, from Sizemore, to review the updated information and provide a new enrollment projection.  In October, it is expected that the city will share plans for annexation and the enrollment data will again need to be revised.  As we have been in all the years of my tenure, we are on top of the projections for the future.

51 thoughts on “Decatur School Enrollment Closes In On Projection, Kindergarten Grows”

      1. Oh, that explains it. I looked up MOOK in the urban dictionary and couldn’t figure out Andisheh’s point.

          1. Jesus, people. All of you! And I guess that includes Andisheh because if you have to explain the joke…

            [Hint for people who are seriously confused: What letter does Kindergarten start with?]

  1. So in 10 years, we could be looking at total enrollment of close to 5,500 students? My kids are at the beginning of the bulge – 11th & 8th grades. It will be interesting for the parents with kids just starting out in the system.

    1. All bets are off on the 10 year projection: “In October, it is expected that the city will share plans for annexation and the enrollment data will again need to be revised.”

    2. It’s hard to predict. In 10 years current students in 3rd grade and up will all have graduated. If the parents mostly stay put in their family sized homes there may eventually be fewer households with school aged kids in Decatur. Although I hear more and more people say they may move out of Decatur when their kids graduate, because of the taxes. You never know, Decatur schools may have a big scandal, APS’s new superintendent may turn that school system into the one everyone wants. Perhaps the birthdate will go down. Climate change may make the southeast an undesirable place to live and the population of Atlanta starts migrating to Fargo.

      Of course at the current rate of annexation…who knows
      Maybe Decatur will end up annexing everyone with “Decatur” in their mailing address.

      1. Excellent point about turnover of homes after kids graduate. I know so many families in COD that are handling their kids’ college costs at least in part by selling their COD single family residence and either moving to a cheap condo in COD or outside of COD. (Newer 2-3 bedroom condos tend to be not much cheaper than older single family residences these days.)

        1. Agreed! I have heard several parents that now have students only in RMS and/or DHS talk about moving out of Decatur as soon as their children finish up.

    3. More like 6,800 if the 9% annual groth rate holds. Yes, 6,800. And that’s not counting annexation or accelerated downtown residential development.

      1. Do you happen to know, historically speaking, the longest we’ve ever had a growth or decline trajectory “hold”? Would be interesting to compare and see how the present trend holds up.

        I know the early to mid 1900s had pretty consistent growth, but that’s when the city was still building out with a lot more undeveloped land.

        1. I don’t think you can use previous trends to predict the future on this. There are just too many external variables: white flight in the 60s and 70s, gentrification in the 90s and 00s, the collapse of DeKalb County and APS, the Olympics (which is often overlooked as a key event in the resurgence of ITP).

          Of course the real issue here is that we have too many damn smart kids in our little town. If we could lower our test scores a few points, it might dissuade new people from moving in.

          1. No disagreement. Over-reliance on past trends is what got us in trouble initially. I’m just interested, given the fact that any infinite trajectory is unable to be sustained, how long our longest one actually was.

      2. Sorry, correction – we will be at 6,800 students in 5 YEARS, not 10, if the 9% growth rate holds.

  2. If nothing else, I think this is a real feather in the cap of everyone — resident, advocate, school official or consultant — who fine tuned our projection methodology. Think of how much ink has been spilled here on DM and elsewhere because of unexpected (to some) spikes. Having actual numbers hit projections this closely means CSD was ready and has allocated personnel and resources appropriately.

    In short, an anticipated challenge is a managed challenge. Great work, all.

    1. agree, given the complexity involved, hitting the numbers is an impressive feat.

      i also think these numbers are a testament to the fertility of our populace—y’all are apparently doing more at night than watching reruns of Mayberry RFD.

      1. I wonder if anyone has really gotten to the cause of our baby boom. Sure, the schools are good. But doesn’t the improvement of in Decatur’s restaurant, cocktail and craft beer scene have more to do with fertility rates than schools? I posit that there is a direct correlation with the rise in growler stores and the increase in the Kindergarten enrollment. Did Sizemore account for that?

    2. Kudos to the parents and staff who advocated for improving the process of making projections a few years ago. The improvements really seem to have worked. Of course, just when you get the hang of it, some unexpected demographic change comes around. So keep your ears close to the ground…

      1. I think the CSD administration had much more motivation to get this right than the parents did. Giving the backseat drivers credit is a little misplaced in my opinion.

          1. I’m not discrediting their great work at all. Just don’t agree with the notion that all of the hard work of tightening up our enrollment projections was done specifically because some parents and staff asked for it. That’s basically saying that CSD was unaware of the need to project enrollment in order to plan for facilities, educators, and other resources, which is laughable to me.

        1. CSD might have had motivation all along to project correctly but they had a chronic problem with underprojecting enrollment until there was concerted pressure, within and without CSD, to do it better.

  3. This is very informative, and will be interesting to see how it plays out.

    There is a distinct drop off from K-3 to high school – avg class size over 410 vs. avg class size of 268.
    There is a step-down in each level, so it goes from ~410 (k-3) to ~325 (4-5) to ~310 (6-8) to ~268 (9-12).
    If current student population stays steady, in 4 years we’ll grow the high school from 1,073 to 1,263 – just under 20% growth. That’s just with current numbers.

    It seems that we “lose” students as they age, but is this due to all the new families that moved in in the past ten years, or normal attrition/drop-out rates? I believe that even before the swell in new houses, there was always a drop off from elementary enrollment through high school.
    It will be interesting to see if this continues, or whether everyone will stay in the system through 12th.

    1. Regarding “losing” students, I came to a different conclusion, but both mine and yours are probably both right to some extent. Parents with older children are more reluctant to change schools, especially if one or more of their kids are in high school. As a result, a greater percentage of those moving to CoD for the schools have younger children. I know several families moving here whose children aren’t even school age yet.

    2. IMHO, the drop-off is due to the shape of the bulge, not normal attrition/drop-out. There was a time when there was a pattern of drop-out at the Renfroe level, with a smaller drop-back-in at the DHS level, but that’s long gone. A few students still leave for various reasons but others transfer the other way from private schools. The small community feel of RMS and DHS is one of their best features so I hope it can continue. Both will really have to work to resist the natural tendency for a school to become more tracked and cliquier as it grows in size. The cohesiveness of the current classes at DHS is a beautiful thing. Not perfect, but darn nice.

  4. Arriba – It is because mainly people moving in. It is not so much of less kids in the upper grades because of drop out, as growth in the lower grades. When the upper high school kids were just starting out in the school system, there was less than 2,500 kids in the whole system.

  5. In the past, enrollment from K to first would go up because some parents opted to send their kids to private, half day kindergartens. I am only speculating, but maybe fewer Decatur parents are doing that? That may account for why the kindergarten projection was off by so much.

    That overall, the enrollment is below predicted is good for RMS and DHS for the time being.

    1. Haven’t heard that the private kindergartens in the area have had a decline in enrollment, has anyone else? My first guess is that there’s truly more kindergarteners than expected. That age group is certainly all over our neighborhood’s streets. And with the opening of Westchester, I expect there’s more coming.

      1. I think they may be getting more kids from unincorporated Dekalb, at least that was my impression after talking to a couple of the directors over the last year or so.

  6. I’m glad to have the clarification that they are measuring percent of prediction vs. percent of year ago. Kudos on the important work of prediction.

    That is important work that has to continue. That said, the real strategic issues here are around growth.

    I think the 3rd grade growth from year ago is notable. 328 students last school year and 409 students this year. Compare the current 4/5 class with next year’s 4/5 class and even with zero incremental students (highly unlikely) the 4/5 academy jumps to over 750 students. The years following would all be over 800 students. Pretty dramatic.

    Understand that some of the master planning is going to look at this.

    1. Yes. The last version of the Renfroe Master Plan had 8 classrooms of 4/5 students stashed in the new second story that extended over the parking lot and fronted King’s Hwy. FAVE already has a new building that will be overwhelmed in 1-2 years based on these projections.

  7. While the projected vs. actual estimate is impressive, it masks the real story here – enrollment has increased 8.8% in one year. With all of the new construction, this rate will probably increase in future years.

    Broken down by schools, K-3 schools have 146 new kids, Renfroe has 73 new kids, DHS has 79 new kids. Using some basic assumptions, this translates to 1.2 new classrooms for each K-3 school, 3 new classrooms for Renfroe and 3 new classrooms for DHS.

    We’re getting to the point that we can’t say our schools are small anymore.

    1. Sizemore’s both a planning and architecture firm but, even then, I’d be surprised if they were doing any projections in-house. Most likely, they’ve got a specialist sub consultant working on the team serving CSD.

  8. Westchester was supposed to have two Kg classes, but they had to add a third. And each of those three Kg classes has around 24/25 students, I think. Lord help us with the annexation! It’s going to get tricky.

  9. It’s tricky without any annexation. The current second grade has 100 more kids than the current 5th grade. Factoring in 10-20% growth over the next few years, 5th Avenue School will have to become a high-rise. I hope this new school board will put everything on the table when it comes to managing the expanding enrollment.

  10. While I appreciate the total accuracy – when I think about what the principals have to manage in preparing I’m wondering about the grade level projections. Curious why the projection for Kindergarten was basically flat??? That seems especially odd.

  11. The annexation discussion is an odd one and I’m not sure city leadership has thought this through in detail. It’s ironic that city leaders are trying to prevent teardown and rebuilds yet at the same time promoting higher density zoning and construction as well as annexation – both which will likely bring significantly mores students into the school system.

    From the dynamics in our neighborhood, one which is undergoing significant change, is that the people moving in tend to have 1-3 children mostly in the k-pre-k age range and the prevailing discussion is that they needed to get out of their respective areas for a better school system. The homes that are being demolished had children that had recently graduated the school system or houses without children with owners cashing out.

    So we’re seeing an influx of kids through the teardowns/rebuilds/renovations, there’s immediate pressure on the schools, and yet we continue to discuss higher density housing and annexation? I must be missing something in this discussion…

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