Summit School District enrollment expected to peak in 2023-24 year |

Summit School District enrollment expected to peak in 2023-24 year

Grade size appears to have rebounded from pandemic

A child holds onto his Spider-Man lunch box on the first day of kindergarten at the Dillon Valley Elementary School on Wednesday, Aug. 25, 2021. Student enrollment increased this year, but it is expected to peak in the future.
Jason Connolly/For the Summit Daily News

The Summit School District’s enrollment appears to have recovered from the pandemic after October enrollment grew more than predicted, but the recent bump isn’t projected to last in the future. Enrollment is notably tied to per-pupil funding, and the district received news of around $1.2 million in unanticipated revenue earlier this year.

Consultant Hazel Reinhardt told the Summit School District Board of Education during its meeting Thursday, May 12, that peak enrollment is expected to come in the 2023-24 school year, with between 3,488 to 3,524 total students estimated to be enrolled. Enrollment will drop to a maximum of 3,465 students by the 2031-32 school year, according to the predictions.

Reinhardt projects in 10 years that enrollment will initially increase at the elementary schools but then decrease. Middle school enrollment decreases in the reports, and high school enrollment initially decreases but then somewhat recovers.

There are currently 3,490 students enrolled in the district for 2021-22, according to Reinhardt. This excludes preschool but includes Snowy Peaks High School.

In terms of net migration, Reinhardt said the district lost 100 students from fall of 2019 to fall of 2020 during the pandemic, but it gained 103 from the fall of 2020 to fall of 2021 in the October counts.

Looking ahead, however, Reinhardt said the country is entering a period of slower growth, aging population, less mobility and very low fertility nationwide. Reinhardt explained that less births means less kids entering kindergarten five or six years later. She said that the district is graduating more students out every year than it is bringing in the next fall, and kindergarten is projected to be smaller than the previous year’s 12th grade, which will put downward pressure on enrollment.

Locally, births in Summit County are down and are projected to be below today’s level soon. Reinhardt said that Colorado births are down by about 11% in the past 15 years, while Summit County births are down nearly 30% in that same time frame.

“Unless you have a massive, massive influx of kindergarten students, the number of kindergarten students is going to decline,” Reinhardt said.

Colorado Demography Center reported 4,884 people aged 17 and younger living in Summit County, or 17.4% of the total county population, in 2010. While Reinhardt said the center hasn’t made adjustments from the recent census data yet, that grew to 5,202 people, or 16.6% in 2020. But the center only projects an increase to 5,550 youth, or 14.9% of the projected 37,259 total, by 2050.

“There is just no reason to anticipate any significant growth in school age population,” Reinhardt said.

Board President Kate Hudnut wondered if the pandemic’s rise in remote work would create a spike in population. Reinhardt said no and added that Summit’s population decreased.

According to U.S. Census Bureau data just released, Reinhardt said that the population for Colorado went up 0.5% between July 2020 to July 2021, but Summit went down 0.1%. In terms of people, Colorado grew from 5,784,308 to 5,812,069 while Summit decreased from 30,971 to 30,941.

“That suggests to me that there wasn’t really a population increase from the pandemic that the studies have shown,” Reinhardt said. “It should have been picked up in this 2021 estimate.”

Board member Chris Guarino asked if a specialty program or other new offering, like a career and technical education facility, would lead to significant enrollment change.

Reinhardt responded that it does happen, but she would have to conduct a careful analysis of the size and other factors of neighboring communities before coming up with a conclusion. Interim Superintendent Roy Crawford said kids might be drawn to the specific program but not necessarily the elementary or middle schools. According to Reinhardt’s data, nonresidents make up only 3.8% of total enrollment in 2021-22.

The board also asked about correlation between enrollment and available workforce housing, but Reinhardt said that the housing’s student yield per unit is insufficient to alter the trajectory of school enrollment. She said only about 9.2% of the district’s students live in workforce housing, adding that she doesn’t see it as a solution.

Reinhardt noted that Summit County is an expensive community and that family size is probably a reflection of the cost of living.

“You simply don’t have many families with four kids,” Reinhardt said. “In fact, nationwide there aren’t many families with four kids. That’s what we’re seeing.”

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