The open portion of the Des Moines Public Schools School Board meeting of June 17, 2008, was over in 90 minutes. That was earlier than I had anticipated, particularly since I had expected a demographic study report that was much longer and controversial than what it turned out to be.
The demographic study was prepared by Ochsner Hare & Hare of Kansas City and reported on at the school board meeting by Ralph Ochsner. The purpose of the study was to look at a five-year population projection, with emphasis on the south side. The base demographics came from an organization that starts with 2000 Census data then updates it using U.S. Postal Service information on the number of households receiving mail delivery by census block. Before Ochsner spoke, background was provided by district staff. The average age of school buildings in Des Moines is 60 years. Changes that have occurred over those decades include more focus on special education and on pre-kindergarten students. The needs of the entire district have to be considered, especially since 28% of students do not attend neighborhood schools.
Ochsner described the Des Moines district as having “a fairly stable population.” Before his company prepared the report, Ochsner said he spent three days traveling nearly every street south of Raccoon River. In addition, he talked with property owners and developers. There is projected growth in population and student body along the edges of Des Moines, in all directions. The south side is expected to have the greatest growth, although that means only about 1,600 more people and 550 more children. This averages about 30 children per age group (from 0-17 years). According to a map in the executive summary of the report, the south side is considered to be the area south of the Raccoon River, stretching across the city from east to west. The central north part of the city is expected to have smaller growth.
The report anticipates the district-wide population to be 199,133, down from 199,746 in 2007. The number of children, up to 17 years of age, is expected to increase slightly from 47,683 to 48,202. For individual schools, the 2012 projections range from an increase of 5 students at Wright to 155 at Pleasant Hill.
A decrease in students is projected for the central north part of the district. The reduction in numbers for elementary schools range from 2 at Oak Park to 132 at Carver. Percentage decreases range from 6.3% at Carver to 0.2% at Monroe and at Oak Park.
The school board will pass the report on to a facilities committee that is expected to be operational by this coming autumn. That committee will make recommendations on how to use buildings. [Note: Although the projected increase averages 30 children per age group, that could equate to two more classrooms at the kindergarten level but maybe only 3 more students in each history class in middle school.]
M.R. Field covers school board meetings for AroundDesMoines.com.