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SAD 17 population stable for next 10 years: Colpitts
OXFORD HILLS — Is it possible to know how many students will be attending your child's school in three, five, or even 10 years?
SAD 17 Superintendent Rick Colpitts says that you can. Right now, the total enrollment at SAD 17 is 3,363 students. In 10 years, says Colpitts, the number will be 3,365, for an estimated net gain of just two students.
"We're one of the few districts that [knows] enrollment will remain relatively stable for at least the next 10 years," Colpitts told the Paris board of selectmen during their most recent meeting.
Knowing how many students will be attending a school in the long run is critical to efficiently managing district resources. What might appear to be justification for building a new classroom wing might instead turn out to be a two-year glut of students that can be shifted around in existing structures, or managed with a classroom rental.
"We know we're going to see a shift, with a slight increase at the elementary and a slight decrease at the high school," said Colpitts, "but then we know that five years after the 10 years, so in 15 years, that will reverse again, and the high school will see a greater increase and the elementary schools will probably decrease."
The study predicts that elementary school enrollment in the district, currently at 1,775, will peak in 2016 with 1,862 students.
Oxford County Comprehensive High School, which currently serves 1,040, will see slightly fewer students over the next decade, hitting a low of 942 students in 2018. The school has a maximum capacity of 1,200 students.
The district's middle school will decline from its current roster of 548 students to just 485 in 2016 before climbing to as many as 560 students two years later. That means that the student population will fluctuate within the limits of the current school setup, which includes two portable classrooms that increase the capacity from 400 to 600 students.
State revenues are based, in part, on a head count of students within a district. If a school is going to lose a significant number of students, and therefore a significant number of state dollars, it can help soften the blow to know that it is coming.
That's why SAD 17 commissioned the study to help them predict how many students they'll see in the future.
"Overall, our population is expected to remain exactly where it is, about 3400 students," said Colpitts.
The projected period of stability is generally good news for the district. Each school is equipped for a maximum number of students, and exceeding that maximum capacity can lead to a need for large new capital projects.
Conversely, a shrinking student body would be an argument for staff cuts, reduced funding, and even possible school closures.
"We know that the Paris and the West Paris schools as they're set up now will be able to sustain that program for a number of years," said Colpitts. "We don't have to worry about losing students and losing state money because of a decrease or a decline in enrollment."
While most of the district's elementary schools are not projected to exceed their capacity, there are exceptions.
Harrison Elementary School is expected to to gain roughly 30 students next year, which would move them from below the school's 200-student maximum capacity to above it. According to the study, the student population will continue to climb over the next decade.
Hebron Elementary, which is equipped to serve 150 students, may slightly exceed that limit in 2015, by a margin of about 10 students.
Meanwhile Guy E. Rowe Elementary is anticipated to stay well below its total capacity, even without the annex that currently allows it to handle 500 students.
The study uses a variety of demographic predictors, including birth rates, the current student body, and population migration patterns, to draw its conclusions.