Robbinsdale Area Schools board discusses enrollment trends and predictions

School officials expect slight decreases in total enrollment, retention

By Laci Gagliano
Sun Post Newspapers

At a Jan. 23 Robbinsdale Area Schools board meeting, Dennis Beekman presented the district’s 2016-2017 enrollment trends as well as enrollment projections for the 2017-2018 school year.
“Enrollment is important to monitor in order to maintain and maximize resource allocations for schools and programs while maintaining fiscal integrity,” said Beekman, the district’s executive director of technology.
Beekman reviewed a mid-year enrollment report, which provides current enrollment numbers; enrollment trends, which help identify factors driving enrollment and choice of schools, data used in predicting enrollment and aid with school and district development; and enrollment projections for the next school year.
Mid-year enrollment
Enrollment numbers as of Jan. 1 were discussed, since the date represents a benchmark to help predict the current year’s average daily membership, a metric the state uses to calculate education revenue.
“Since we need to forecast that ADM into the future and we don’t have that current year ADM yet, we use actual January enrollment, since it historically approximates the average daily membership, or ADM,” Beekman said.
The total Jan. 1 district enrollment is 12,630 students, a decrease of 60 students from last January’s level. A line graph presented at the meeting displayed enrollment trends from the past 10 years, demonstrating that Jan. 1 represents average enrollment numbers each year. Beekman said the 2016-2017 January enrollment data shows a strong retention of students since the beginning of the year.
Elementary enrollment is lower than last January, while middle school enrollment is actually higher than last year, and at the highest point it’s been in a decade, according to Beekman.
“It’s very timely that we’re seeing that, because we’re opening a middle school next year,” he said, in reference to Sandburg Middle School’s upcoming opening. High school enrollment is slightly lower than last year, and at the lowest level it has been in the past decade, Beekman said. Retention, however, he said, is increasing from previous years.
Enrollment trends
“Major factors affecting enrollment trends are the numbers of students who reside in the geographic boundaries of the school district, the number of students who choose to enroll in Robbinsdale area schools (the capture rate), and the number of nonresident students who attend Robbinsdale Area Schools through enrollment options, or open enroll,” Beekman said.
The graph analysis utilizes ADM numbers from the past 10 years, plus the current year’s mid-year enrollment totals.
“When you look at the resident school-age children who live in the district, the number has remained pretty consistent over the past decade,” he said.
The capture rate had been consistent since 2009, with a measurable drop this year. Beekman discussed a graph representing trends for each grade level, pointing out that most district-dwelling children attending school outside the Robbinsdale Area School District do so before kindergarten. Similarly, all-day kindergarten within the district isn’t showing consistency in its retention rates in spite of initial strength in numbers.
According to another graph Beekman presented, 68.7 percent of residents within the district boundaries attend school at a Robbinsdale Area School, while 11.7 percent of district residents attend other public schools outside the district, 9.5 percent attend nonpublic schools outside the district, and another 7.3 percent are enrolled in charter schools.
Open enrollment at other public schools outside the district has increased by 49 percent during the past decade, while charter schools have gained the highest number of students residing in the district over the last decade.
“Charter schools really pop up quickly,” Beekman said. “You’ll see several of them (on a graph) popping up over the last few years. If you just look at those three new pop-ups, they account for the enrollment of 100 students.” Beekman said residents are attending 57 charter schools across the state.
“Hopkins is enrolling the most district residents, 561 students,” Beekman said, discussing the open enrollment choices residents within the Robbinsdale Area School district boundaries are making with schools in the immediate surrounding areas. “Hopkins and Osseo (Area Schools) serve more than half of all residents who attend a public school outside the district. Meanwhile, 56 percent fewer district students are attending schools in Wayzata than during the 2009-2010 school year.
Non-resident students attending Robbinsdale Area Schools has increased by nearly 150 students since the previous school year. Currently, fewer resident students attend other schools outside the district than non-resident students attending in the Robbinsdale Area School District.
“From my perspective, (this shows) a very strong appetite for school choice in the metro area,” Beekman said.
Most nonresidents come from Minneapolis and Osseo, representing around 83 percent of the non-resident numbers, according to the graph Beekman discussed. Beekman said there are currently 852 open enrollment applications from non-residents, with 790 approved and 62 still pending. As of Jan. 1, the district has received a total of 1,688 applications, the majority of the rest coming from residents wishing to attend schools outside the district. Robbinsdale officials approve a total of 90 percent of transfer requests to or from a school outside the district where a student resides.
Robbinsdale schools have lower rates of resident students attending public schools in their district at 70 percent, compared to the state average of 79 percent. The district also has a slightly higher number of resident students attending public, charter, and non-public schools outside of their district than the state average.
Enrollment projections
Beekman said district enrollment is projected to decrease slightly from 2017 through 2020. An anticipated drop from the current K-12 enrollment number of 12,347 to 12,338 in 2020. A larger decrease is expected for the 2017-2018 school year, according to the presentation, with an estimated drop to 12,319 and 12,323 in 2017-2018 and 2018-2019, respectively.
Beekman said the decreases are expected at the elementary and high school levels, while the middle school level is expected to increase. These projections will help construct the 2017-2018 budget and to properly staff the schools according to student-teacher ratios established by the school board.

Contact Laci Gagliano at [email protected]