West Bend School District Projects Rapid Decline in Enrollment

The West Bend School Board met last night. One of the items they discussed was new enrollment figures and projections. One might remember that the topic of declining enrollment was a key driver in the findings of the West Bend School District Private Task Force. As it turns out, enrollment is dropping faster than even the projections we used. The Washington County Insider has video and extensive coverage.

October 29, 2019 – West Bend, WI – West Bend School District Superintendent Don Kirkegaard outlined enrollment trends during the Monday night School Board meeting. The district indicated “unless there is a change in enrollment trends, the district can expect declining enrollment for the next 8-10 years.”

Superintendent Kirkegaard:

  • Our enrollment has been going south. It has been for quite a few years and it’s going to go for quite a few more years.
  • We’re down about 600 students since 2006
  • There are about 60 kids that open enroll out of Jackson. Jackson area is the largest open enrolling out of the district.
  • Projections: I made an assumption that the kindergarten class would stay the same and every kid who is in school this year stays in school throughout their whole career.
  • If you go to the high school we’re at 2184 this year. If you look at current students in the school, I added 50 kids every year once they become 9th graders, based on Holy Angels and Cabrini, typically the last few years we picked up 50 parochial kids that come to high school. You’re down to 1669 students with both east and west together.
  • This isn’t doom and gloom, it’s just reality.

II don’t know why he would use flat Kindergarten enrollment as a basis given that Kindergarten enrollment has been declining too, but even with that faulty basis, the overall district is declining.

The reality is that enrollment in the West Bend School District peaked 10 years ago with 6,902 students. This year, there are 6,279. That’s a decline of 623 students or 9%. Even the most generous projections show that the district will have just under 5,000 students ten years from now. That is a decline of almost 30% off of the most recent peak.

Again, this is not the fault of the district. While there are some numbers around the edges that have to do with School Choice or Open Enrollment, the main reason is a national demographic trend of people having fewer kids.

The enrollment trend is going to hit the district hard and fast whether the School Board acts or not. Either they can manage the decline or it will manage them. It’s past time for the citizens of the district to put some big issues on the table. The district can’t be run like it has been in the past.