Park City School District’s enrollment drops, mainly at elementary schools
Despite a predicted increase in the Park City School District student population, the numbers went the opposite direction.
The projected enrollment was 4,861, an increase of 44 students. However, enrollment ended up dropping 0.8 percent to 4,780 students, said Todd Hauber, business administrator for the district. It is the second decrease in as many years, as enrollment also declined last year.
The starkest changes were in the elementary schools, where McPolin Elementary School decreased its population by 27 students, Parley’s Park Elementary School went down 33 students and Trailside Elementary School decreased by 38 students.
The student count at Trailside have been slowly decreasing for the last couple of years, according to the district’s data.
Hauber said the district anticipated more younger families moving into the area, particularly within the McPolin school boundaries. But, he said, more secondary school children appeared to move in.
He said the incoming kindergarten class only has 266 students, a large difference from the senior class it is replacing of 398 students. The junior class has 450 students.
The district has had an enrollment bubble moving through the upper grades, which Hauber said formed during the recession about a decade ago. Housing costs were low, allowing more families to move into the area.
Now, with the rising costs of housing, the opposite effect is taking place.
“Economics have changed, so you have a different family profile moving in now,” he said.
While observing the student enrollment within each school and grade, the district also analyzed class sizes, which revealed that there are classes at McPolin with as few as 11 students. The low class sizes are partly because of the dual-language immersion program, which tends to have larger class sizes, Hauber said.
In the same first grade as the classes with sizes of 11 and 13 students, the DLI classes have 23 and 21 students.
The release of enrollment numbers comes a few months after the Park City Board of Education approved the addition of more positions to meet the needs of students. More assistant principals were hired at the secondary schools, for example.
Some community members expressed concern during the budget approval process, saying the student population did not warrant additional positions.
JJ Ehlers, a member of the Board, said the schools in the district had some of the highest ratios of students per assistant principal in the state, so adding those positions brought the district to the state average. She said the Board stands by its decision, because the decrease in student population was relatively small.
Now, the Board must decide whether the numbers are low enough to open schools to enrollment from students who live outside of the district boundaries. Currently, all schools are closed to open enrollment.
Ehlers said constituents tend to want to keep schools closed so they do not have to pay for students who live outside of the district to attend school in Park City. But, with higher enrollment, the school also receives more money from the state. She said the Board’s decision is still up in the air and dependent on data.
The district is currently set to receive about $270,000 less from the state than expected because of the decreased enrollment. Hauber said the district will likely be able to use some of its budget savings from last year to make up the shortfall.
“Fortunately we came in under budget, so we should be good moving forward with this school year,” he said.
Hauber is evaluating the enrollment projections for next year and the average class sizes this year. The Board is expected to vote on whether or not to keep the schools closed to open enrollment at its meeting on Nov. 20.
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