The District's enrollment forecasts have consistently underestimated the number of new students that will be arriving and our schools have become progressively overcrowded.
The Facilities Planning Department should be responsible for enrollment forecasts for the District; however, for the past 20 years, this task has been assigned to the Finance Department that has no experience with demographic analysis. The result has been that enrollment forecasts have consistently underestimated the District's long-term (5-year) growth rates.
In 2014, the District's forecasting model (LWSD - CFP 2014-2019) predicted that there would be only 29,046 for the 2019-2020 school year; however, the superintendent just announced that more than 31,000 students enrolled this year - 2,000 more than expected 5 years ago. What's wrong? Why didn't they see the students coming?
The problem lies in the District's enrollment forecasting model. The District uses King County birth rates to estimate kindergarten enrollment instead of city-specific birth statistics that are significantly higher than the overall King County birthrate. Additionally, when calculating students generated by new construction, the District uses 5-year occupancy data* to estimate the number of students that will be generated even though 10-year forecasts better predict the actual number of students. As an example, the 5-year occupancy rate for apartments predicts that there will be 1 elementary student for every 10 apartments built. For apartment buildings that are 10-20 years old, actual data shows that there will be 1 student for every 3 apartments. The District builds for the lower enrollment forecasts and then cannot accommodate the actual enrollment numbers. Cumulatively, over 20 years, this model has contributed to the District overcrowding crisis.
If elected, I will advocate for the District to create a new position "Director of Facilities Planning" and then hire an experienced leader from outside the school district who will use demographic planning tools to accurately predict overall enrollment increases and also target where the additional students will be enrolling.
*The King County Code (KCC 21A.43.020) requires impact fees to be calculated on 5-year occupancy data. There is no requirement that enrollment projections must be based on impact fees or the 5-year data. This error has been pointed out to the Finance Department, but they continue to use the 5-year data.