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Austin Schools Are Expected To Lose Thousands Of Students Over The Next Five Years

Students eat lunch in the cafeteria of Highland Park Elementary. A sole person walks in an empty hallway.
Julia Reihs
Students eat lunch at Highland Park Elementary on the first day of school in August.

About 4,500 fewer students are expected to be enrolled in the Austin Independent School District over the next five years, a new demographic report predicts.  

There are two main reasons students are leaving AISD: a lack of affordable housing and families enrolling in charter schools, according to the demographers who authored the report.

Superintendent Paul Cruz said the district needs to consider all of the reasons why students leave if the district wants them back. 

"Affordability is an issue, customer service is certainly another one," he told the school board at a work session Monday night when the board reviewed the report. "Do kids feel welcome in our schools? That's always essential. Do parents feel welcome?"


Most of the 2019 increase in the student population was seen at the middle school level, AISD said.
Credit 2019-20 Demographic Report and School Impact / Austin ISD
Austin ISD
Most of the 2019 increase in the student population was seen at the middle school level, AISD said.

To determine the number, demographers looked at a variety of factors, including home prices, new construction, birth rates and charter school enrollment.

Rocky Gardiner, a demographer with Templeton Demographics, which created the report, said the future of Austin housing played a major role in these estimates. A lot of the development around the city is for one-bedroom apartments and condo units, which he said don’t attract families. 

"One thousand condo units may just generate 60 students,” he said. “That's how low that yield is.”

Previous reports have predicted a decline in enrollment for a few years now, but the current school year saw a 1% increase: 636 more students attended AISD schools. Most of that increase was at the middle-school level. 

Despite that bump, the report is projecting an almost 6% drop over the next five years and a 10% decline over the next 10 years. (These projections do not include students who transfer into AISD from other districts.)

Low enrollment is one reason the district says it is being forced to close schools. Most of the schools proposed for closure are elementary schools, which are seeing the biggest enrollment declines.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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