Demographic study predicts moderate growth of student enrollment in near future

King Consulting’s table showing the number of potential students based by Winters housing developments. (Courtesy graphic)

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Rob Murray, the Director of Demographics for King Consulting, presented to the Winters Joint Unified School District Board of Trustees a Demographic Analysis and Enrollment Projection Study regarding the predictable near future of Winters JUSD’s enrollment numbers. 

The April 20 presentation’s overview stated that “Winters JUSD enrollment is positioned to decrease based only on demographic trends. However, other factors will offset what would otherwise be decreased enrollments, leading to enrollment gains in the coming years. Increasing transitional kindergarten (TK) enrollment eligibility. Additional students moving to Winters due to residential development.”

“Those factors together,” Murray said, “are enough to more than offset what would otherwise look like a modest decrease.” 

Regarding historical enrollment trends, Murray says Winters JUSD has been “remarkably steady” with enrollment since 2014 staying between 1,520 and 1,570 students. Looking more particularly at the numbers, Murray presented the kindergarten and transitional kindergarten enrollment numbers as “one of the biggest engines that drives how a school district’s total enrollment is going to rise and fall is what’s the difference of those new cohorts coming in, and how do they compare to the older cohorts that are moving out.” 

Murray noted that since the 2019–2020 school year, kindergarten enrollment numbers have been slightly lower than their previous numbers, but that the addition of transitional kindergarten has mitigated or even surpassed previous enrollment numbers. 

An important factor in enrollment that Murray highlighted is student generation rates, which he explains as “basically, a number of homes are going to be built, how many kids do you think you will actually see in terms of new enrollment from those new homes?” Looking at data used by King Consulting, Winters JUSD can expect that for single-family homes “for every 10 homes that are built…you would expect to enroll about three new kids.

For multi-family homes, Murray notes that Winters is anomalous since typically that number is lower than single-family homes, but is actually around seven students for every 10 homes. 

For affordable housing, King found that the district can expect “more than a student per unit” which “is where you really see those large numbers.”

Combining this data, Murray says King projects that of 1,389 units built, the school district can expect somewhere around 213 students generated by the 2029–30 school year. But Murray also clarified that this estimate is based on averages and factors that aren’t under anyone’s control, such as changes in the housing market, families switching between school districts and the actual number that may deviate from their calculations. 

The residential developments looked at in the study included the LDS Subdivision and Winters Highlands (which are already under construction), Walnut 10 (construction has begun), the Farmstead Division (still in planning phases), and the Winters 183 project which has been proposed as a concept, but no official proposal has been submitted to the city of Winters.

When looked at alongside birthrates that have plateaued and the rates of student migration, the overall project for the district is a moderate growth out to 2029–30 buoyed by TK enrollments and housing developments. 

Trustees asked a few questions regarding Murray’s presentation.

Trustee Everardo Zaragoza asked what the projections would look like if the housing developments didn’t end up being built in the event of another housing collapse like in 2008. Murray said that even if “everything grinds to a halt, no new homes being built for the better part of a decade” the school district would be “instead of growing, more like growing steady” and then decreasing later. Further, even if housing development slows down “it doesn’t take you much to offset (the decrease(…so any amount of housing will fill in that gap.” 

Trustee Joedy Michael said the projections show the need for early child care and also asked Murray how King Consulting gathered their data on the English-learner population of Winters, to which Murray said King largely relies on the school district and state’s own reporting. 

Board President Green asked how these projections differed from previous ones, and Murray said that “the single biggest (difference) is really the transitional kindergarten” which he said was too high, with this newer estimate being more accurate. 

In response to a question from Michael about how often these estimates should be conducted, Murray said that given the number of unpredictable variables in this estimate, from births to the housing market, he advised running these estimates “every couple of years,” 

Murray continued, “It’s always the best that we can tell you with what we know at the time we’re doing it, and every single week, month, year that goes by, there’s more stuff that’s out that we couldn’t have known at the time we were doing it, so every couple of years would be my personal recommendation.”

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