Enrollment in the Davis schools might dip a bit in the next year or two, then grow by about 100 students over the next 10 years, demographics consultant Scott Torlucci told the Davis Board of Education on Thursday. The growth would bring enrollment from 8,525 students in 2013-14 to about 8,625 by 2023-24, Torlucci said.
His projections include the expectation that about 900 new homes could be built in Davis over the next decade, spread over already approved projects like The Cannery — about 560 units, ranging from single-family homes to condos to granny flats on the site of the old Hunt-Wesson tomato plant; West Village, 300-some homes for faculty and staff on the UC Davis campus; and the Chiles Ranch subdivision — 108 homes adjacent to the Davis Cemetery.
Torlucci stressed that these new homes “won’t come all at once,” so the impact on enrollment will be gradual.
But he added that any boost to enrollment stemming from the new housing units will be blunted by the recent decline in Yolo County birth rates, which have dropped by 20 percent over the past six years. The number of births in 2012 was the lowest in 17 years.
“You may have fewer than 500 kindergarten students in 2015,” Torlucci advised.
Yolo County birth rates are not expected to equal 2006 levels until 2020, he added, and those children won’t enter kindergarten until 2025.
Torlucci also said he expects the number of out-of-district students attending Davis schools on interdistrict transfers to decline. That number grew in recent years, even as the number of school-age students in Davis has declined by about 6 percent. This is attributed to Davis families who moved to less expensive housing in nearby communities during the recession due to job loss or foreclosure on the home they owned or were renting.
Federal law obligates school districts to allow students whose families move due to economic distress to keep their children in the same school if they wish to do so. But with the recession fading and fewer families relocating, Torlucci predicts that the number of out-of-district transfer students attending Davis schools will gradually diminish as the current crop of transfer students graduates out of the Davis schools, or switches to a school in the community where their family has settled.
“You went from about 8,100 students living in the district six years ago to about 7,700 students living in the district now,” Torlucci said. “The migration of families moving to adjacent cities while continuing to be enrolled in a Davis school increased this last year compared to 2012-13. There was a net gain of 69 (out-of-district transfer students) this year compared to 116 last year. The in-district population decreased by 98 K-12 students.”
Davis also accepted fewer out-of-district students this year because of tight staffing due to budgetary considerations, limiting the number of open seats in classrooms.
Torlucci’s enrollment projections are built on the number of housing units in the school district (existing and new units), birth rates and “mobility factors” that reflect the moves that families with children inevitably make.
His research does not reference other social/demographic trends, but there is a growing body of evidence that an increasing percentage of Davis homes are occupied by “empty nesters” whose children have become adults — households that are no longer sending children to local elementary, junior high or high schools.
— Reach Jeff Hudson at firstname.lastname@example.org or 530-747-8055.