Demographer predicts rise in enrollment

Demographer predicts rise in enrollment
Posted on 03/30/2021
Tahoma School District is likely to return to pre-pandemic enrollment levels over the next year, according to a demographic report that was presented to the School Board during a work-study session March 18.

Demographer William Kendrick, Ph.D.,was hired by the school district to report on enrollment and population trends and projections. In addition to the School Board, the district’s Student Housing Committee attended the meeting to listen and ask questions. The Student Housing Committee began meeting again in February, after last spring’s pandemic school closures halted its work. The committee is working on a 10-year plan to examine how to best accommodate student enrollment growth, and also will make recommendations to the School Board about any needed “tweaks” or adjustments to current in-district attendance boundaries.

Kendrick began his presentation by pointing out that all Puget Sound area school districts lost enrollment over the past year, due to changes in response to COVID-19. Tahoma’s current enrollment is about 4.9% less than in the 2019-2020 school year, compared to the King County school district average of a 3.3% reduction. Most of Tahoma’s enrollment decline occurred in grades kindergarten-5.

“The pandemic and the lack of in-person schooling had a severe effect on elementary learning,” Kendrick said.

After pointing out that birth rates, housing construction and population growth are the main indicators for projecting enrollment growth, Kendrick said Tahoma also has more students per household, on average, than every other King County school district, which he said is an indication that there is a higher percentage of families with school-age children in the district than there are in other districts.

Population growth in the region appears to be less than before the pandemic, but he said there is still growth as well as movement of people to different communities. He said Tahoma is likely to add students at a higher rate than many other King County school districts. Housing construction and affordability attract people to the area; home sales are strong in the region.

“I think there’s a good shot you’ll at least get back to where you were in 2019,” Kendrick said. “And who knows. … you could see a little bit of a pop there if you get back to mostly normal school.”

In forecasting enrollment through 2030, Kendrick offered low, medium and high forecasts. The low growth forecast pegs overall district enrollment at about 9,000 students in 2030, compared to 8,400 now. The medium projection is for 9,800 students; the high range estimates there will be 10,500 enrolled.

The information provided in Kendrick’s report will be used as the district makes plans for next school year and beyond.
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