Madison Metropolitan School District enrollment dropped again for the 2019-20 school year.
According to data included in a report from the Research and Program Evaluation Office, MMSD has 33 fewer students this year than last. It's the second straight year of decline, as 2018-19 had 95 students fewer than 2017-18. Projections show it’s a trend that’s expected to continue.
“The number of students enrolled in MMSD is projected to decline by 117 to 367 students each year for the next five years,” the report states. “This is a change from the recent history of relatively steady enrollment.”
Between now and the 2024-25 school year, the district will lose another 1,347 students, according to district projections. Since the 2011-12 school year when MMSD added 4-year-old kindergarten, the district has always had at least 26,000 students. Projections show it will drop below that in 2024-25 for the first time since.
Projections from Vandewalle and Associates show enrollment stability in the "long term," the report adds.
The district's projections are based on what the report calls a “sharp decrease” in the birth rates in the cities of Fitchburg and Madison in 2016 and 2017, the last two reported years. Continued drops in enrollment are significant for the district’s funding, as state aid is largely based on enrollment, measured each September on the third Friday of the school year.
The drops are projected to initially come in elementary schools, as kindergarten classes will continue a trend of being smaller than the year prior. At the high school level, East and Memorial are projected to grow in attendance by the 2024-25 school year, while West will have five students fewer than this year. La Follette is projected to lose 49 students from this year to 2024-25.
The overall enrollment decrease means that most buildings are projected to be at or below the “ideal” 90% capacity use five years from now, according to data included in the report, which is calculated using factors including class size policy, section availability and building size. The most significant exceptions are Falk Elementary School, which is projected to be at 104.4% of its capacity in five years, and West High School, projected at 98.7% — just below its current 98.9% utilization.
The buildings with the lowest utilization rate projected in five years are O’Keeffe Middle School, at 38.6%, and Black Hawk Middle School, at 46.9%. No other schools in the district are projected below 50% utilization of space, though Sennett Middle School and Orchard Ridge Elementary School are within one percentage point. Middle schools as a whole are projected to have a 59.4% utilization rate.
The drop in enrollment from last year is mostly attributable to inter-district transfers — students attending school in a district other than the one they live in — which has 708 more students enroll out of MMSD than into the district for 2019-20, the report shows. That difference is 36 students more than in 2018-19, but down by nearly 200 from 2015-16, when 906 more students left the district than entered through one of the various processes.
The vast majority of those are through the open enrollment process, which has an estimated net cost of $6.4 million for this school year, according to the report.
Of those leaving the district through open enrollment, nearly three-quarters are white — well above the district’s overall demographics with 42% of students being white. The report shows that 25% of open enrollees into the district are black, above the district’s overall demographic of 18% black students.