According to the results of a demographic study commissioned by the Union School District, the district likely will not grow enough to merit constructing another building and there is sufficient space for the number of students over the next decade.
Preston Smith, principal owner of Business Information Services, LLC., presented the study findings during a special board meeting earlier this week.
Dr. Judy Stivers, assistant superintendent, said the study is comprehensive and meant to guide the district.
The firm was hired in April to perform a capacity analysis of the district buildings, determine likely enrollment growth and gather information about the community and other demographic trends.
Smith said that despite positive factors that could cause people to move to the district, such as unrest in the St. Louis metro area, school certification problems it’s facing, as well as quality, affordable housing in Union — projection models do not point to large or even stable enrollment growth.
“We believe the district’s current buildings can accommodate the most optimistic enrollment growth possible during the next 10 years, with little or no modification,” Smith told the board.
Smith presented three statistical models for growth, based on limited growth, steady growth and high growth.
Based on all three models, enrollment will be somewhere between 3,227 and 3,413 by 2025.
The models assumed an overall enrollment change ranging from 0.4 percent to 1 percent per year, Smith said.
Smith noted several factors that will inhibit growth in the school district, including a weak birth rate, “extremely weak” projected growth in the number of child-bearing women, growth in the 45 and older population and private school enrollment growth.
According to the report, the recession has caused national birth rates to fall to the lowest levels in a century. Birth rates in the Union ZIP code have fallen 15 percent and kindergarten enrollment in the district has been up and down since 2010.
“Home sales have been strong and steady in Union, but this has not resulted in large increases in enrollment,” the study notes.
Birth rate was gathered from the state health department based on the mother’s ZIP code.
The study said that there may be more females in the district, but women are having fewer children.
Between 2000 and 2010, the over 45 age groups in the district increased from a low of 15 percent to a high of 62.9 percent in the 60 and 61 year group.
The same was true statewide, with only the 70 to 74 age group showing a decrease in Missouri. The state average growth for the same age ranges were 3 to 46.9 percent.
Because of the number of private schools, the Union School District has a higher than average private school attendance.
The average of students who attend public school statewide is approximately 86 percent. The Union School District only had 81.1 percent of students attending in 2009-10 — the most recent data available.
Additionally, enrollment at private schools within 10 miles of the district is up 9.3 percent this year compared to last year, the study notes.
About one-fifth of students in the district are home-schooled or attend a private school.
The single biggest recommendation for the Union School District was to change Central and Clark-Vitt to K-5 schools and move sixth grade back to the middle school. Beaufort Elementary would remain the same.
“Our calculations show that the district’s current buildings can hold as many as 3,767 students and our models do not show the district’s enrollment exceeding that within the next decade unless dramatic changes occur in its present population,” Smith said.
The study did not take into consideration the modular units or that the SSRC building (the old high school, connected to the middle school) is not handicapped accessible.
Capacity calculations are based on a national industry standard of how many square feet are needed for each student in each grade level. Smith said spaces such as the cafeteria and library all even out in the projections.
Another suggestion was installation of Google fiber to market the district as a prime place to have a home -ased business or work from home opportunities.
The full report can be accessed on the district website.