As more people are expected to continue to move to the Austin area, the Austin Independent School District predicts enrollment in city schools to stay relatively flat over the next ten years. At an AISD school board meeting last night, board members suggested by the year 2023, the Austin school district is predicted to have about 350 fewer students than it does right now.
In a district of 86,000 students, that doesn’t seem like much. But Beth Wilson with the district’s Planning Services department says it reflects a major trend in Austin.
“Austin is growing we’re not growing with the demographic that have young school children.”
There are many reasons why the district expects enrollment to stagnate: lower birth rates in recent years, more school choices and charter and private school options could lead to fewer students. But, Wilson says, schools will remain overcrowded in areas like the southeast and northwest in the next five years.
Other areas will remain under-enrolled. And all schools in southwest are expected to be within enrollment targets. That’s because those neighborhoods are seeing less turnaround in population:
“Neighborhoods like Circle C, they are more likely to have empty nesters, families who children may not be replaced with new young families who have little children," says City of Austin demographer Ryan Robinson.
He suggests housing could be to blame. Right now, Austin has single family homes that are becoming more expensive. As home prices increase, he says, people are more likely to stay put. That prevents new families from moving into a neighborhood as quickly, meaning fewer kids are entering those neighborhood schools.
“The way we’re hurdling now in this very, very expensive market, with very few housing options, young families just don’t have that much to choose from,” Robinson says. But, the city is trying to rewrite its land development code to fix that problem.“We’d like to see small multi family structures. Six, eight plex,” he says.
AISD’s Beth Wilson says it’s important to note the enrollment projections are based on where students live, not where they attend school.
So, they don’t take into account students who transfer. The district will use these numbers and combine them with historic trends to get even more specific data about over crowded and under enrolled schools.
That will guide the board as they develop a plan for the district’s facilities by the end of the academic year. It will also help the district as it takes a look at possible changes to attendance zones. Plus, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says the enrollment projections guide budget planning.
“We think about what we can do these are things we have to be very aware of so we don’t over extend ourselves," Carstarphen says.
Last night the board also talked about if, and when, it should ask voters to increase taxes to balance future budgets, but did not make any decisions.