School district K-12 enrollment: ~15,000
Setting: Large metro area contiguous suburb with high dependence upon employment outside the district boundaries.
Characteristics: Very little remaining development potential, offset by “aging in place” demographic with low housing turnover; substantial housing and enrollment growth occurring just outside three of the district’s four sides.
A suburban school district experienced considerable housing and enrollment growth in the 1960s. The growth was quite rapid and the district apparently did not consider long-term demographic stability when considering new school construction. Consequently, a few elementary schools were built too close to each other and as the population in the attendance areas matured and was “aging in place” (i.e. low turnover) insufficient enrollment was generated to keep the schools populated at an efficient operating level. As new homes were built farther away, children from the newer homes were bused to the existing schools even though an elementary school site in the new area was available. Many years later an analysis with district finance staff regarding busing costs indicated that transportation costs were more important than previously believed. The analysis revealed that if one of the existing schools had not been built and a new one could have been constructed in the newer neighborhood the new school could have been paid for with the savings from about 20 years of those busing costs.
Bottom Line: Decisions based upon short-term information can easily result in much more costly expenses in the long-term.
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