At some point during the year, many school districts will fall into one of these three areas:
- Thinking about planning a bond or levy measure
- Attempting to pass a bond or levy
- Trying make the most of the bond or levy they just passed
No matter which category your district finds itself in, the end goals are the same: alleviate overcrowded classrooms, get facilities sited in the best possible location, and—if existing facilities are being expanded or new facilities are being built—make sure attendance area boundaries are redrawn to accommodate community values while balancing school capacities.
Easier said than done.
School district planning involves a lot of decisions and a lot of data, regardless of size or number of students. Reaching that end goal will never be simple, but you can make your bond or levy campaign run smoothly by taking the time to update your long-term facilities plan, determine your school siting criteria, and start thinking about whether you’ll need to update attendance area boundaries.
Tip 1: Update your long-term facilities plan
If you’re planning a bond or levy, make sure your long-term facilities plan is updated with accurate and defensible enrollment forecasts based on a robust set of data. That data should include student enrollment assessments, historic enrollment, land use and residential development information, and demographic trends and estimates. Without an accurate prediction of the future alerting you to enrollment changes in your district over time, you won’t be prepared to know where and to what extent to expand existing facilities or build new facilities when your bond or levy passes.
While demographers have long provided enrollment forecasts to school districts, these forecasts (while useful in many ways) are often district-wide and are not broken down for individual school attendance areas or by building attendance—where it matters most. So, while you might know how many fourth graders to expect for the district in total for a particular year, you won’t know what the forecast is for individual elementary schools.
Knowing the total number of students expected district-wide can’t provide insight into enrollment fluctuation for a given school, or help you plan for a time when student enrollment exceeds school capacity. It also doesn’t provide the granular information that’s necessary to make important decisions about the configuration of school facilities or chart enrollment trends in individual neighborhoods.