Enrollment predicted to go up at APS over the next 10 years

Published 7:17 pm Tuesday, March 15, 2022

The Austin Public Schools Board, at Monday night’s meeting, got some welcome news in terms of future enrollment.

According to Hazel Reinhardt, an independent demographer, APS is looking at a possibly significant increase in enrollment through the next 10 years, despite taking a hit from the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a decrease of 50 kindergarten students in 2020-21 and a net out migration of 209 students that affected all grades except juniors and seniors.

Though the district did see a rebounding of 114 students this school year.

Reinhardt hit upon a key metric that is helping push this prediction and that is birth rates in Mower County.

From around 2016, Mower County has seen a consistent rise in birth rates. In 2019 there were 551 births in Mower.

“That is counter to what you see happening in the state,” Reinhardt said. “Based on that trend I’m assuming that Mower County resident births will be at this level or a little higher in the near term future. That’s a very important piece of data.”

There are a couple other factors including kindergarten is a larger share of county resident births and the net in-migration of students every year in the past 10 years has increased except for the pandemic year.

On top of this trend, Reinhardt is predicting more students in kindergarten over that 10-year span through the 2031-32 school year with a projected kindergarten pool of over 515 each year.

The assumption is Mower would be at a .83% increase for the next several years, based on the trend that in the past 15 years, county births have increased from .76% to .83%.

When the data is all taken together, Reinhardt predicted an enrollment increase from 4,974 students district wide in the 2020-21 school year to between 5,600 and 5,858 students.

During that 10-year span it’s expected that there will be more students in each grade.

While optimistic for a school that has seen anywhere from declining enrollment to static enrollment in recent years, work will eventually change to how the school will need to adapt in the future.

“Those are good numbers for us,” said Board Chair Kathy Green. “With the numbers we’re seeing here, obviously increasing enrollment, have we been looking at what we need to do to accommodate that?”

Superintendent Dr. Joey Page responded by saying the district will now look at how to answer those questions.

COVID mandates

John Alberts, director of educational services, reported Monday night that due to declining COVID case numbers in the county and district, that the district’s COVID-19 Team recommended following new CDC masking recommendations.

On Feb. 25, the Centers for Disease Control dropped its recommendation for universal masking as the omicron variant surge continued to retreat. Instead, new guidelines will follow risks and community levels.

Just last week, Mower County Health and Human Services Director Crystal Peterson announced that Mower County had slipped into medium transmission after being labeled as a high transmission county.

The school board voted to no longer recommend universal indoor mask-wearing in district schools that have a low to medium COVID-19 community level.

That’s optimistic news considering that according to school data, there was just one case within the entire district for the week of March 5.