January 28, 2002
Northshore School District looks to the future
by Bronwyn Wilson
Senior Staff Writer
It didn't make the headlines, but the news was significant to school districts and possibly even to area diaper services. Back in 1996, the number of babies born in King County took a dip from the previous year. The decrease was important news to the Northshore School District as the number of new births is one of several elements the district uses to predict kindergarten enrollment five years later.
Working with a demographer, the school district factored in the 1996 decline in new births and projected a decrease in school enrollment for the 2001-2002 school year. Estimating kindergarten enrollment is just one piece of the overall enrollment projection process. Another is to estimate the number of currently enrolled students expected to remain in Northshore Schools and "move up" to the next grade. Other indicators thrown into the mix to predict future kindergarten enrollment include new housing starts, economic trends and the number of waivers into the district. The babies born in 1996 are now kindergartners and, as expected, their enrollment number is slightly lower than last year's. However, the total Northshore School District enrollment of 20, 076 students this year remains about the same as last year.
Projecting enrollment is difficult, especially when there are so many unpredictable factors. "Enrollment projections are more an art than a science," says Dick Anastasi, executive director of business and finance with the Northshore School District. He says that the school district is currently working with a demographer to predict kindergarten enrollment for 2002-03 and beyond.
Anastasi comments that the Northshore area is a great place to live and the school district is definitely a draw. "But no matter how good a school district is, a downturn in the economy can certainly affect long-term enrollment projections," he says and then adds, "We couldn't predict the Boeing decisions or the demise of so many dot.coms."
For now, demographers are keeping a close look on the economic situation and watching the trends on the Eastside in order to predict the number of five-year-olds who will enter Kindergarten in the future. The school's budget, staff and equipment needs are based on enrollment projections. "If our kindergarten and first grade numbers are up, we feel a bit more confident," says Anastasi. "Typically, once a child is in our district, he or she tends to stay."