EM school board hears presentation on demographic study

By Cara L. Dempski

ELK MOUND — The Elk Mound school board heard a presentation on a recent demographic study completed by the UW – Madison Applied Population Laboratory at its most recent meeting.

Sarah Kemp, a school enrollment projections researcher with the APL, spoke to the assembled board and administration during the December 19 board meeting.

Kemp opened her presentation by looking at the previous projection models created as part of the district’s 2007 referendum. The graphs covered the past decade of enrollment based on “third Friday” numbers at the beginning of each school year. The department of public instruction uses the school district enrollment as of the third Friday of the academic year as the official number for student body in a school district.

Actual enrollment in the past 10 years was not as high as previous models projected, though there was a steady increase in enrollment over that time period.

“The trend was an increasing trend, it just was not as large as projected,” Kemp stated. 

Kemp explained she provided the previous projections just before the 2008 housing crisis and recession, which may have impacted the district’s growth. There had been anticipation of new housing development to increase student enrollment. She also said the prior projections showed an increase in births, but in actuality births declined.

The district has seen a nine percent enrollment increase since 2007 in grades kindergarten through 12. The most growth has occurred in the middle school, but there has been a one-half percent decrease in high school enrollment in the same time period.

Kemp also said the district’s open enrollment numbers have increased over the past nine years for both incoming and outgoing students, but there have been substantially more students coming into the district than have been leaving.

The projections for the next decade indicate there will be stability in enrollment over the next five years, but then will decline slightly. Birth numbers used to predict future kindergarten students indicate a decrease in births, but a slight increase in kindergarten enrollment.

The models indicate Mound View elementary could see an 11 percent enrollment decrease in the next five years, while the middle school would see a two to four percent decrease in the same period. The high school does indicate a slight increase in enrollment over the next 10 years.

“The place to keep your eye out as you move forward is those elementary grades,” Kemp said. “Take this information and use it to monitor the enrollment going forward.”

District superintendent Eric Wright said after the presentation that Kemp’s projections indicate an increase to 1,400 students enrolled in the district.

Other business

The school board also heard a presentation from Al Brown of the Wisconsin Association of School Boards. Brown spoke to the board regarding the WASB’s strategic planning process, something the board will need to look into after hearing the results of the demographic study.

The WASB planning process involves a steering committee of community members and district employees and can last from two to six months, with four to five meetings lasting several hours apiece to gather all necessary information and form a strategic plan.

The process is meant to provide a clear direction for a district to move and a way to track its progress.

Brown indicated other districts using the WASB planning process have gone so far as to post the plan and progress reports on websites, making it easy for community members to see what is going on in the schools.

Board members unanimously supported adopting the proposed planning process to formulate the district’s next strategic plan.

In other business, the board:

• Received the review questionnaires for evaluation of superintendent Eric Wright.

• Unanimously approved early graduation for four students, contingent on the students meeting all graduation requirements by the end of this semester. The four students are Amber Edington, Skylar Lantz, Amber Lee and Kala Gorell.

• Heard a legislative report about a proposal that could subject all high school students participating in extra curricular activities or parking vehicles on school grounds to random drug screens.

• Scheduled the first three meetings for 2017 on January 16, February 20 and March 20.

• The school board then adjourned to closed session. Superintendent Wright later reported the board unanimously approved hiring Bridget Herrick as a middle school special education teacher. Herrick served as a student teacher at the school, and Wright said her work there gave him, and other administrators, a unique opportunity to see how she did in the classroom. She is scheduled to start her position on January 23, 2017.