School board hears demographic study

Image courtesy of School District Strategies — This map shows how many new students are projected to enroll in Allen ISD over the next 10 years in each of the district's locator blocks. The rendering was prepared for AISD by School District Strategies as part of this year's comprehensive demographic study.

ALLEN — The Allen ISD Board of Trustees was given a look at what could be the demographic future of the district at its Oct. 24 meeting.

This year's demography report, presented by Brent Alexander of School District Strategies, looked at data spanning the 10-year period between 2000 and 2011 to project enrollment out to 2021. According to the report, AISD enrollment has grown by 76 percent over the past 10 years.

While the district's peak growth years between 2001 and 2005 — in which the district grew by an average of 8 percent every year — are over, the district is still growing and will continue to do so. The district's current enrollment of 19,333 represents an increase of 3.5 percent over last fall's numbers, Alexander said.

"Since 2006, the rate of growth has slowed. However, growth is still averaging 3.4 percent per year," Alexander said. "That's 580 students per year, and a total of 2,900 new students over the last five years."

The report showed while about two-thirds of the district's under-18 population lives on the east side of U.S. 75, the largest area of student growth still lies on the west side of the city. Most of the district's remaining growth is expected to occur in the two-square-mile area north of State Highway 121 in McKinney, the Evans Elementary zone and the Cheatham Elementary zone.

The growth is largely fueled by home sales in the district, which have continued to increase at a rapid pace west of U.S. 75 and north of Highway 121. Over the past year, 82 percent of the district's 541 new home closings in the district occurred in west Allen and McKinney. Star Creek, with 85 closings over the past year, is the highest-selling neighborhood in the city. Silhouette North, which had 52 closings over the past year, is the only east Allen neighborhood to still be in the Top 10 highest-selling neighborhoods.

"The increasing student growth west of 75 is a reflection of the new home market's location, which is now heavily weighted towards the west side of the district," Alexander said.

The number of developed lots with no homes is also heavily weighted toward west Allen. While the Bolin and Chandler zones are expected to see growth over the next 10 years as a result of future lots, only 100 of the district's 1068 currently developed lots fall on the east side of the city.

"In the short term, the housing market is positioned to continue fueling student growth in the Cheatham, Evans, Curtis and Ereckson zones," he said.

In addition to home growth, new families in Allen are getting bigger. The number of students produced per new household has increased from an average of 0.5 between 2004 and 2007 to an average of 1.1 after 2008.

"Generally, we think that the increase in yield indicates that a higher number of families with school-aged kids are choosing to move into west Allen, as opposed to several years ago when lower prices in east Allen attracted more first-time buyers with younger kids," Alexander said.

What does it all add up to? If the district continues its historical growth rate, it will surpass 24,000 students by 2021. However, since the number of new homes will decrease over the next seven to 10 years, the study anticipates the district will instead have 22,000 students by 2021, an increase of 3,500 over the current enrollment.

The majority of elementary school growth — which Alexander said generally drives enrollment — is expected to occur in the Cheatham, Evans and Kerr zones. While there are still areas of growth on the east side — particularly in the Chandler and Bolin zones — some schools on the east side of the city are already starting to show signs of flattened or even decreased enrollment, including Anderson, Reed, Rountree and Story.

Gary Stocker, school board president, said the district needs to keep a close eye on the level of aging of its existing schools may experience in the coming years as it begins to look to construction projects to accommodate growth and explore potential boundary changes in the coming year.

"We don't want to build too much, because the last thing we want is an empty building," Stocker said. "But we don't want to build too few, because then we've got portables on top of portables. We know portables will work from a short term, but there's definitely an additional level of change that occurs at those campuses because of all the additional students in there."

Compared to other Dallas-area school districts, Allen ranks eighth in closings and second in new home construction. The majority of these closings have occurred in the Cheatham Elementary zone, with 45 percent of closings occurring in that area over the past year. The fastest-closing middle school zones have been Curtis, which claimed more than half of closings, and Ereckson, in which 38 percent of closings occurred.

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