Demographer presents enrollment predictions to school board

Enrollment numbers at Bainbridge schools are not expected to see any drastic changes, at least for the next decade, said demographer William L. Kendrick.

In 2012 it was projected that by October 2016 student enrollment would be at 3,716, in reality 66 more students were enrolled in 2016 than were forecast.

Underestimation isn’t a new trend, though; forecasted enrollment numbers have been lower than actual enrollment every year since the last demographic study was conducted in 2012. The largest gap happened in 2015 when 119 more students enrolled than were predicted.

The demographic report recently commissioned by the school district acknowledges these facts but immediately states that despite fluctuations, the overall decreases to enrollment are still present in current trends.

“Enrollment in Bainbridge Island School District is trending above the enrollment forecast that was completed for the district in 2012,” Kendrick said in his report.

“Since the last forecast was completed there have been fluctuations up and down in enrollment from year to year, but enrollment as of October 2016 is still 76 less than what it was in October 2011,” the report read.

“I always tell people that forecasts are made up of two parts,” Kendrick said in a presentation to the school board.

“There’s the assumptions and there’s the numbers, the math. The math is the easy part,” he said.

As for the islanders who have been looking at those innumerable cranes across the water, wondering when some growth might spill over to the Rock, those people, Kendrick said, might be waiting for some time.

“We’ve had four or five years of really good, record population growth in Seattle. It just hasn’t hit out this way yet. It’s certainly spread out to the far reaches of Pierce County and Snohomish County,” he said.

“We know Seattle’s booming, maybe, eventually those people will say, ‘I cannot afford a house over here, I have got to find someplace else’ and you’ll see some growth from some of that,” Kendrick said.

Kendrick also noted that Bainbridge may not receive as much of a boom from Seattle’s growth as South Kitsap, which he said was poised to receive marked growth from people leaving Seattle in search of more affordable housing.

“There’s going to be a lot of growth landing in South Kitsap. I know a lot about those developments that were on the books that got stopped. There’s still a lot more coming in there, so they’re going to see a lot of growth in that area,” the demographer said.

But what does all of this mean for a school district citing declining student enrollment as a key factor in this year’s $2.1 million budget crisis?

Well, right now that picture remains a little fuzzy.

Tamela Van Winkle, the school district’s director of capitol projects prefaced Kendrick’s presentation by stating that the information in the demographic report isn’t the lynch pin for predicting enrollment-related budget figures.

“When we do a demographic study … it’s really used as a facility planning tool. It’s not necessarily the document and information that nails it for budget conversation,” Van Winkle said, citing the fact that facilities planning looks at classroom headcount rather than the full-time equivalency which receives state and federal funding to the tune of about $6,500 per student, annually.

Superintendent Peter Bang-Knudsen said in a phone interview that the demographic report has not affected the district’s estimation that there will be 94 fewer students enrolled in Bainbridge schools next year.

“We’re still sticking with our projections for next year; we do ongoing monitoring, on a week-by-week basis, checking in with our schools and seeing if we’ve got new kids in the system. We’re not seeing any significant changes at this point but we’re going to continue to monitor that,” Bang-Knudsen said.

“It’s going to be a fairly straight line over the next few years.”