Growth in District 51 is slowing, analyst says
The flood of new students washing into School District 51 is expected to dry up for the next four years, according to the district’s demographer.
Shannon Bingham, owner of Western Demographics in Boulder, predicted District 51’s student population would grow by at least 3 percent annually for the next decade in projections last year. Since then, construction delays, decreasing job availability, stagnant home sales and estimates that an economic upswing will take at best nine months to arrive have convinced Bingham that student population will instead grow by 1 percent each year for the next four years.
“I’m expecting a four-year slowdown followed by a recovery,” he said, adding the district could see 2 percent growth in 2013 through 2015 and 3 percent growth in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
District 51 Board of Education members have discussed placing schools on split schedules, operating schools year-round and other alternatives to building schools, ever since voters in
November rejected a bond measure meant to pay for new buildings. Board member Ron Rowley said the district has since budgeted for zero growth this fall and adopted a wait-and-see attitude.
“We’re still looking at alternatives” to the bond, Rowley said, “but we’re holding back until we see the numbers this fall.”
Even without growth, board member Diann Rice said solutions are needed for schools that already are overpopulated on both ends of the valley. This fall, modular units and staff will be added and classrooms shifted at the more-crowded schools. Central High School is slated for cafeteria renovation.
As for a second attempt at a bond issue, Rice said for now she doesn’t believe that will happen.
“I don’t think with the economy the way it is we’re going to ask voters for any money this year,” Rice said.
With its 5 percent growth, Mesa County is 21st of 64 Colorado counties for the highest percentage of student growth from 2003 to 2008. District 51 experienced 5.55 percent growth during that period.