A sneak peek at enrollment numbers | Mukilteo schools

By Marci Larsen, Superintendent | Jan 08, 2014

The Danish physicist and philosopher Niels Bohr once said, “Prediction is very difficult, especially about the future.”

At the Mukilteo School District, we know how true that statement is — especially when it comes to predicting the enrollment in our schools.

Much of our planning for the 2014-15 school year is getting underway now, and knowing what the enrollment will be is especially important.

Not only do enrollment forecasts tell us how many classrooms we will need, they also tell us how many teachers and other staff members we must hire.

What’s more, because our state funding is directly tied to the number of children in our classrooms, enrollment forecasts are essential in developing the school district’s operating budget.

But, predicting school enrollment is daunting because there are so many variables involved. It’s like predicting if it will snow in three weeks.

We can look at the number of students in third grade and estimate how many of them will advance to fourth grade next year, but we don’t know if some of them will move away or how many parents of fourth graders will decide to buy or rent a house in our school district.

This year, for example, there are 56 more fourth graders in our classrooms than there were third graders last year. Why the big jump in that particular age group? We don’t know.

We can look at the number of children born in Snohomish County and predict how many of them will appear in kindergarten classes five years later. We can also look at the construction of new housing units and predict how many of them will become the homes of school-age children in the future.

But, both of those can also be misleading.

Many of the new apartment complexes being built in the school district offer four-bedroom units. Some have five-bedroom units.

We normally estimate that we will get about one student for every three apartment units, but will those larger apartments have more school-age children than the typical two-bedroom units? We will soon find out.

A consultant who we have used for more than 15 years develops our enrollment forecasts.

He recently crunched all the numbers for cohort survival rates, birth rates, new housing units, home sales, and other factors to give us his forecast for the 2014-15 school year and will present his findings to the school board on Jan. 13.

But, I can give you a sneak preview:

Enrollment will continue to increase.

A year ago, the forecasts said that our enrollment would reach 14,742 students in the fall of 2013, which was estimated to include 7,051 students in elementary schools.

When the students actually arrived, the number was greater than predicted. Our actual enrollment count was 14,884 students, 142 more than predicted and 251 more than the previous year.

The actual elementary enrollment was 7,118, which was higher than what had been predicted for 2014.

We are told that our enrollment increase of 251 students from 2012 to 2013 was the highest among all the other school districts in Snohomish County.

The newest forecast of medium growth estimates that our total enrollment will reach 15,129 students next fall, an increase of 245 students compared with this year, and 16,087 five years later in 2019.

Elementary enrollment is predicted to be 7,245 students next fall, an increase of 127 students. In five years, elementary enrollment is now predicted to increase by about 300 students as compared with this year.

In the meantime, I’ll keep my crystal ball handy.

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