Growth, although challenging, is a good thing
During the 2015-16 school year, we completed a Master Plan process outlining the District’s facility needs as we manage a growing student population.
Growth is not a new scenario for Dublin City Schools. The District has been growing every year since 1977, adding an average of approximately 300 new students per year during this almost 40-year time frame. In more recent years, the annual enrollment growth has hovered around 240 new students per year. Historically, our Planning Department has been amazingly accurate with its growth projections. We also use an outside company to assist with enrollment projections in an effort to ensure we are as accurate as possible. During the past two summers, we have added approximately 800 additional students. This level of growth provides us with both challenges and opportunities.
The Master Plan committee was given the task of peering into the crystal ball in an effort to determine our facilities and land needs over the next decade. During the next 10 years, the District is expected to add approximately 3,000 students. In order to accommodate this enrollment growth, the Master Plan committee recommended the construction of two more elementary schools, a fifth middle school, additions to two of our high schools, and non-traditional high school space.
The majority of these projects could be funded through a no new millage bond issue at some point in time. The District is fortunate enough to have the “mortgage payments” on some of its older buildings rolling off the books during the next few years. Therefore, we will have significant capacity to build additional facilities without raising taxes. The additional cost will come down the road when operating dollars are needed to fund the new schools.
Fortunately, our Board of Education has been forward thinking in its planning. This fall, we opened 22 additional classrooms at six of our elementary schools. This step was taken with funds originally intended to build a new elementary school. By choosing to construct additions instead, we were able to minimize redistricting and delay the fixed costs that come with operating a school.
I’d like to address two persistent questions we receive here at the District office regarding enrollment growth.
#1-Why not plan further ahead to accommodate enrollment growth?
Enrollment projections are educated guesses regarding student growth and historically our projections historically have been very accurate. Actual enrollment however, can fluctuate drastically from year to year for a variety of reasons, let alone over the course of several years. We want to be extremely careful when planning for the eventual build-out of our District. We want to avoid any scenarios where future generations may have to consider closing schools. Many of us have observed other districts go through the high emotional cost to a community when schools have to be closed due to lack of enrollment. Installation of portable classroom and adjustments to schedules are far less painful alternatives than asking a future generation to consolidate school buildings constructed during a period of strong enrollment growth but are no longer needed when the district is done growing.
Additionally, in the fall of 2008 we saw what can happen to housing starts during an economic downturn. It is a prudent course of action to thoughtfully plan for growth, rather than risk the enormous financial and emotional costs of overbuilding.
#2-Why doesn’t the District do something to control enrollment growth?
There is still significant vacant land within our District boundaries which stretch north all the way to U.S. 42. It is in this northwest portion of the District, the Jerome Village subdivision is being constructed and new homes seem to be popping out of the ground every week. More than 18 housing projects are currently under construction or in development within our boundaries, and community residents I meet at events or those responding to a survey will ask, why doesn’t the district do something to control the growth of the community?
Simply put, growth control is not a function of a school district. By law, Dublin City Schools does not have any authority to control community growth. We do not zone properties and we do not approve or deny land use requests. We are able to institute policies and practices such as not accepting open enrollment students from other districts and using a private investigative firm to look into any issues of individuals claiming to live within the District’s boundaries, but who actually live elsewhere. Big picture however, the District cannot and does not control community growth.
Our mission is to provide the students who live within our boundaries with world-class instruction, well-rounded experiences, and a commitment to continuous improvement.
Growth is a positive thing for our District and our community. Growth means people want to be here because our District and community have established excellent reputations, and economic development on a local level continues to thrive. While it presents challenges as well, it is our mission to educate the students who live within our boundaries and that is a mission we whole-heartedly accept.