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Wednesday

April 2014

16

Solutions needed for growing enrollment

Oconomowoc Area School District - A recent enrollment report further validates growth and capacity issues in the district.

The School Board has reviewed a report prepared by the Applied Population Lab (APL) at University of Wisconsin-Madison, regarding enrollment trends in the district that will be factored into future strategies for dealing with growth issues.

The Enrollment Projection Report included the most recent enrollment information into its calculations.

In 2011, the district, which has led the county in growth over the last decade and is one of just a few districts statewide that had seen significant jumps in enrollment, saw a modest uptick.

"Basically, actual enrollment was increased, but a modest increase of just over 30 students," explained Mike Barry, the district's assistant superintendent of business services.

"When that data point is built into projections, the report concluded that elementary enrollment is expected to grow over the short term," or next five years, he said.

While enrollment is expected to continue to increase, Barry said it would not be at the same pace that the district has seen over the last eight to 10 years.

"The Intermediate Schools are expected to grow more rapidly over the next five years as larger primary grades move in and high school enrollment will begin to increase two to three years from now and steadily increase for the next several years," he added.

Barry said that based on enrollment trends from the past, those predictions are also supported by data regarding the number of births in the community, as well as by housing start data.

"That is the real wild card," he said.

"Housing starts peaked in 2004-05, like the rest of the economy. All the municipal planners are very cautious in predicting a return to rapid housing starts," Barry added.

The APL report, however, is just one-half of the equation for the district, he said.

The second half of the issue deals with capacity and how facilities shape up to meet the growing demand.

"Our elementary schools are full. The intermediate schools have some room for growth and the high school has limited capacity for growth," Barry pointed out.

Board President Don Wiemer said the data from the report is key to decisions that must be made.

"They (APL report) validated the growth of the Meadow View and Ixonia areas. So, we're going to have to start dealing with it whether we like it or not," he said.

Earlier this year, the district announced plans to move fourth-grade students from Ixonia School to Nature Hill Intermediate School to deal with overcrowding. Ixonia School's student enrollment has doubled in the last eight years.

The School Board will be scheduling a series of workshops with the district administrative team and facility consultants to come up with both short- and long-term options to meet the needs of the student population.

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