The TUSD Governing Board will consider spending more than $32,000 on a study to assess and project student enrollment in the district for the next decade.
A consultant contract for the Arizona-based Applied Economics firm will come before the Governing Board on Tuesday.
The results of the demographic study, if approved, will “reduce uncertainty and ensure that the district is ready for the future.” It is a key piece in developing the school district’s master plan, according to TUSD Superintendent H.T. Sanchez.
“We must know where families are moving, new neighborhoods are being platted, the median ages of families in established and new neighborhoods, and a myriad of other very important information,” Sanchez said. “The third-party demographer’s role is to tell us where families are moving to and away from. This information will be the basis for boundary line options and potential construction needs.”
Tucson Unified School District data has shown a loss of about 1,500 students each year over the last several years. District officials have attributed the continuous enrollment decline to a decrease in the number of school-age children living within its boundaries, charter schools, the downturn in the economy and a change in immigration policies.
While Sanchez has said the numbers are not cause for panic — especially considering the external factors, TUSD Governing Board President Adelita Grijalva, who has served since 2003, has argued there is a need for change from within.
“I’ve been on this board for long enough to see when we were at (59,000 students), and the first year we went down, to this point,” Grijalva said, referring to this year’s enrollment of about 49,000 students.
“At some point you have to say, now we really have to pay attention and we have to be more competitive ... At some point the red flag has to start going and every administrator, every office manager and every teacher has to be more responsive to our constituents, otherwise we won’t have any,” she said.
While TUSD has long conducted its own analysis of enrollment and made projections for the future, the consultant will complement that work by analyzing projected enrollment by neighborhood rather than by school.
With only one person in TUSD who does projections, the district cannot invest the kind of time it would take to perform the type of analysis that the consultant will.
The smaller geographies will provide a better ability to perform a “what-if” analysis of potential school attendance areas and where to build or close schools.
The anticipated completion date for the study is Nov. 27, if work starts immediately.
The firm conducting the study has experience in working with school districts relative to population trends, enrollment patterns and the educational alternatives including private schools, charter schools, home-schooling and online education.
It will assemble a database of demographic, enrollment and development information, which will include an inventory of active, planned and proposed residential development and an estimate of the enrollment generated by that development.