Zionsville Community Schools prepares for growth with demographics study

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By Mark Ambrogi

As Zionsville Community Schools’ enrollment continues to grow, officials need to keep track of the trends.

Thus the school board voted unanimously at its July session to renew its contract with Indiana Business Research Center at the IU Kelly School of Business to conduct a demographics study.

Mike Shafer, ZCS’s chief financial officer, estimates the IBRC’s projections have averaged in the 90 to 95 percent correct range, with some individual years reaching 96 to 98 percent accuracy, in the district’s 17 years of using the service.

The IBRC report will include a 10-year enrollment project, starting with the fall of 2016. The study would be available in late 2015 or early 2016 and will be valuable in strategic planning during the next several years.

“Normally every three years or so we commission a new study just because of the changing factors that occur: recessions, changing in zoning rules, housing patterns,” Shafer said. “We understand 10 years is a really long time to project.”

The cost of the study is $24,000 and will be paid in three installments over a six-month period from the capital projects and transportation funds.

The last study IBRC completed was in July 2013.

“We never stopped growing, but our growth rate slowed down (following the 2008 recession),”  Shafer said. “We saw a couple of years in a row where we saw fewer than 100 new kids. There were times before that we had 200-plus. The current study shows we’ll see growth pick up in the 150 range for awhile and maybe go up a little bit more.”

As of mid-July, ZCS has enrolled 243 new students, while 139 students have moved out of the district. The net growth of ZCS has averaged more than 200 students in the last several years.

“Given our ongoing financial challenges and per-student funding from the state that will continue to be more than $700 per student below average (state average), we must have accurate growth data,” stated ZCS Board President Shari Alexander Richey in a press release.

The study helps track projections for subdivisions being planned in each part of the district. So the study is crucial to help to plan school-by-school, Shafer said. The projections help in terms of staffing, food service, bus service, physical maintenance and major renovations.

“It affects our decision-making in almost all our departments,” Shafer said.

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