Chesterton Tribune

 

 

A lot has changed in 10 years: Study predicts enrollment drop for Duneland schools

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By LILY REX

The Duneland School Board heard the results of a comprehensive demographic study done by Dr. Robert Boyd at its meeting Monday night.

Boyd, an assistant professor of Education at Indiana State University, gave a presentation on the nearly 30-page report he wrote on a recently completed comprehensive study of the Duneland School district. Boyd reported that he last did a comprehensive study of demographics, economics, and space utilization at Duneland ten years ago, and a lot has changed.

The goal of the study is to create projections of future enrollment patterns and evaluate space utilization. Boyd said the main takeaways from his research are that Duneland is being run well, but, like most schools in Indiana, is likely to continue losing state funding for its general fund due to the dispersing of students and a reduction in enrollment.

Boyd said state funding in Indiana is doled out on a per student basis, but funding for each student follows the student if he or she leaves one district for another or for a private school. At the time of his last report, this policy was being debated by the General Assembly--now it is in effect. “The vast majority of schools are losing students and thus losing dollars,” he said. What is unfortunate about this model, Boyd added, is that losing two students from a classroom doesn’t significantly reduce any operating costs, but it can significantly reduce state funding.

Boyd said total enrollment in elementary schools has decreased at Duneland and it likely to continue on that route, as the median age in Porter County is 40.3 and Porter County’s birthrate is dropping.

On the positive notes, Boyd said Duneland’s debt to assessed value ratio is much lower than the average school system. In fact, the ratio is so low that if Duneland were considered in a vacuum--absent of capital expenditures that need to be managed with debt now through 2022--it would be on track to pay off all its debts by that year. Boyd said he mentioned that fact not because the district could ever be, or should ever aim to be, debt-free, but it is a hypothetical scenario “that shows excellent management of this district over time.”

Boyd added, “The study concludes that you have excellent facilities that are extremely well maintained. You also have additional space that could be utilized for students.”

A big factor in Boyd’s predictions a decade ago was growth expected in Jackson Township, as Board member Michael Trout brought up. Trout said DSC bought land based on those predictions, and the growth never came. Boyd responded it is true his predictions can shift due to major economic changes. In the case of Jackson, his predictions of growth were made before the 2008 recession. Overall, Boyd ended by saying that a community that maintains excellent school programming will always attract young people and families, the determining factor is what those people can afford.

 

Posted 6/6/2018

 

 
 
 
 

 

 

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