Lakota to see enrollment drop, study says

A 10-year enrollment study includes a drop more than 2,000 students by the 2022-23 school year.Fastest growing household type in the district will be empty-nest households, expert says.

The Lakota school district, which is the seventh-largest school district in the state and the largest school district in Butler County, is “suffering from what I refer to as the curse of a successful school district,” said Jerome McKibben, a senior demographer with McKibben Demographics, who co-conducted the enrollment study.

“You have a very high graduation rate and very high post-secondary participation rate. Your kids graduate, go off to college and don’t come back,” he said.

The Lakota school district has grown in population since 2000 from 74,400 to 94,600, according to census data. McKibben said during his agency’s forecast in 2008 for the district, the bulk of the population was in the mid-30s to 40s, with correlating children between the ages of zero to 14.

“The fastest growing household type in the district over the next 10 years will be empty-nest households,” McKibben told the school board during its Jan. 28 meeting.

McKibben is projecting a net drop of 1,000 students on the elementary level during the next decade.

“That’s the deficit you have to fill in with in-migration,” McKibben said. “At the current pace of 400 (new) households a year, it won’t get it done. You need about 500 more on top of that to actually break even on enrollment.”

Residential building permits in Butler County were at their highest rate in 2004 and have since been on the decline.

In the last 10 years, McKibben said there was a 25 percent increase in new housing developments in the district — or about 7,000 new homes. He said it can take up to nine years for the full effect of a new household to be felt, depending on when the family has children and what their ages are.

“This is not a Lakota problem. Every single suburban school district in this country, particularly ones that were dependent on new home construction in the last decade, is going through this right now,” McKibben said.

Despite that 25 percent increase in housing, McKibben said the district still has a deficit of preschool-aged children. Adding to the problem, he said is a forecasted median age of 40.7 by 2020.

“It’s hard to have a high number of indigenous births when you have a median age of population of 40,” McKibben said.

The 10-year forecast presented Monday is a follow-up to a 2008 study by Cropper GIS and McKibben Demographics. The cost of the study was $20,000.

“As we started to plan for the future and try to understand the impact of the economy and the demographics of our area since the 2010 census, the administration felt like we needed an update to the forecast to properly plan over the next several years,” said Christopher Passarge, chief operations officer for Lakota.

Jenni Logan, Lakota treasurer, also presented enrollment data regarding students who have left the district. Since 2009, Lakota schools have lost 672 students to other public, community or private schools.

“It’s very informative; it’s good for the public to see how detailed of planning we’re doing because so many of our costs are driven by student population,” said Joan Powell, board president.

Lakota contracted with Cropper GIS and McKibben Demographics — two separate companies — to conduct the enrollment and demographics study, Passarge said.

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