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Eye of the Tiger

District predicts population shifts

MARC CHAPPELLE

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This article is the first of a two-part series on the sixth high school’s potential impacts on enrollment distribution in the district.

Schools around the district may have to prepare for campuses with hundreds of fewer students within the next seven years, according to most recent enrollment projections.

Due in part to the opening of the sixth high school as early as fall 2020, Oakmont High School’s attendance boundary may yield 394 fewer students by the 2023-24 school year.
Although for some campuses like OHS, a potential decrease in student enrollment could be a return to form.

“We would love to have high schools at 1800, because that’s what they’re designed to accommodate,” RJUHSD superintendent Ron Severson said. “The new high school is going be built with phase two to house 2,400 kids. It’s being built to be a big high school.”

However, in the time leading up to the opening of the sixth high school, OHS’ residential enrollment could balloon by roughly 500 students, as its attendance boundary will still include areas in the Westpark neighborhood. This trend of an increase followed by a decrease in residential population at OHS mirrors that of the mid-2000s prior to the opening of Antelope High School.

“It’s a challenge,” RJUHSD assistant superintendent of business services Joe Landon said. “In the short term, Oakmont in the next two or three years is going to be pretty impacted, similar to how Woodcreek has been the past couple of years. Population is growing, the campus is really full, which leads to a lot of issues. It’s gonna be tough at Oakmont, because it’s a couple years of that significant growth, and then it’ll drop down.”

Shifts in student enrollment dictate crucial starting points for the district, including revenue, staffing distribution and facilities demand, according to Landon.
“Each year, we go through this process to make sure we do proper planning for a number of things,” Landon said. “Students and attendance drives a number of factors for the district… it all kind of starts with the numbers of students, so it’s a driving force behind what we do.”

By the same projection as OHS, Woodcreek High School’s attendance boundary could produce 360 fewer students on campus by the 2023-24 school year. Granite Bay High School’s attendance boundary may contribute 136 fewer students as well, although its enrollment shows slower movement.

An “aging-out” process may be the main cause for a gradual decrease in student population at both WHS and GBHS, according to Cooperative Strategies partner Larry Ferchaw, who worked alongside Landon in producing the enrollment projections.

“What generally you see as a trend there, you see families who buy a house, who raise their kids in that house, and then those families don’t move out,” Ferchaw said. “So, you have houses that used to generate kids that don’t generate kids.”

In seven years, Antelope High School’s attendance boundary enrollment may dip by 54 students, and Roseville High School’s by 80.
These shifting populations could affect schools’ athletic league placements, as the California Interscholastic Federation Sac-Joaquin Section uses school size as a primary factor in realignments every four years.

Existing enrollment, likelihood of a student graduating grade levels, local birth rates, amount of residential development and new students of families who move into these new residences contribute to February’s district enrollment projections. These factors are variables over time.

“We’re using past data points and past trends to project forward,” Ferchaw said. “Of course the economy can change. We’ve seen in the past in other areas where people have moved back in with their parents, let’s say, and then they have multigenerational housing… and that’s gonna impact enrollment. There’s a whole bunch of things that go into it, and we’re just trying to use the best data we can today to project out seven years forward.”

Actual high school enrollment numbers result from a combination of students who live in the attendance boundary, as well as those who transfer into and between RJUHSD campuses.
For the 2016-17 school year, 787 students transferred into the district, and Cooperative Strategies expects roughly 800 students to transfer into RJUHSD each school year through 2023-24 and enroll at various campuses. At the same time, 857 students within the district chose to attend a school outside of their attendance boundary.

“As we have more space, we’ll have more ability for kids to pick schools based on programs and things,” Severson said. “Right now, we have really limited intra-district transfers because of space.”
Severson expects the enrollment numbers to become more manageable between schools in the future.

“Based on our current demographics, we don’t think there’s an urgent need to re-draw boundaries,” Severson said. “Oakmont’s still going to be a good-sized high school. Granite Bay – we think their levels are going to stay about right. We’re more worried about overcrowding than anything. That may change, the demographics of the city can change. We could have another recession and everything could be different.”

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