District 833 enrollment flat, but increases lie ahead
School District 833’s student enrollment stayed flat this past year but administrators say future population projections mean additional schools will be needed.
South Washington County Schools saw small growth from last year to 2013-14 as enrollment increased just 41 students. The total enrollment as of Oct. 1 was 17,680, up from 17,639 last fall.
The 0.23 percent growth was less than the district predicted and lower than the previous three years, which saw average annual growth of 1.6 percent.
“It didn’t grow the way we expected,” said Mike Vogel, assistant to the superintendent for operations. “It’s a little bit of a surprise and contrary to the trends that our enrollment was flat this year,” said Mike Vogel
Enrollment changes varied by school, with some seeing as much as a 7 percent increase while others dipped by up to 5 percent.
Schools with higher enrollment this fall include Bailey, Cottage Grove, Grey Cloud, Liberty Ridge, Newport, Nuevas Fronteras, Pullman and Valley Crossing elementary schools; Lake and Woodbury middle schools; and East Ridge High School.
Overall enrollment in District 833 is expected to grow steadily, caused largely by planned housing developments in Woodbury and Cottage Grove.
Vogel’s projections show enrollment increases of 0.86 percent, 0.6 percent and 1.4 percent over the next three years. Total enrollment could rise to 18,122 by the 2016-17 school year. The largest growth is expected at the elementary school level.
Three of four middle schools — Lake, Woodbury and Cottage Grove — are expected to grow through 2016-17, according to district projections. Those schools are nearing capacity.
“I think we certainly need to talk about new buildings moving forward,” Vogel said. District officials say a new elementary school and a middle school will be needed.
In the short term, a flat enrollment figure this fall raised questions about the district budget.
School Board Chairman Ron Kath noted at a recent board meeting that the district budget for this year assumed enrollment growth of 0.6 percent. However, the actual increase was 0.22 percent. State aid is tied to student enrollment, and Kath wondered about the budget effect of a smaller-than-projected enrollment.
Finance Director Aaron Bushberger said exact figures were not available, but budget changes could be necessary in December or January.
“It will definitely have an impact on the budget,” Bushberger said.