Saturday, June 10, 2006

Uncertainty in Demographic Predictions

The current closure plan does not “right-size” the district, as the Superintendent claims. It cuts capacity to the bone, especially in the Southeast quadrant. If the enrollment in the Southeast quadrant grows by less than 1% between now and Fall 2007, we will either see overcrowded schools with larger class sizes, or we will see students from the Southeast quadrant being bused to Northeast quadrant schools.

The district is projecting enrollment in the Southeast quadrant will decrease, so we are told not to worry. But what if the district’s demographic projections are wrong? The enormous changes in recent projections do not inspire confidence.

A 2002 analysis predicted that the Emerson area would see a 67 percent increase over the next ten years. Two years later, the prediction was for a 27 percent decrease. Likewise, the 2002 prediction for Graham Hill was a 12.4 percent increase. Two years later, the prediction was for a 12.4 percent decrease.

The Board should not accept a school closure plan that cuts capacity so drastically. The uncertainty inherent in demographic predictions, and the costly consequences if predictions are wrong, require a reasonable cushion for error be built into the plan. Fewer schools should be closed.

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