Thursday, March 9, 2017


District officials spend a great deal of time poring over data related to student achievement, class size, proposed legislation, funding, negotiations, and any number of other topics. We take our research seriously. So when an op-ed  that ran in the Idaho Statesman last Saturday misrepresented facts about the District, we researched the issues to provide accurate data.

Here are some facts about Boise District enrollment.

We have records of Boise District enrollment back to the 1920's and 1930's; we can see when particular schools were opened and closed, when other school districts opted to join the district, and when grade organization patterns changed in the District.

We analyze District enrollment using a particular enrollment report each year - typically it's the October report - so we have consistent year-to-year number on which we can focus. Here are the District's October enrollment figures for the past 10 years.

District enrollment has increased by about 1200 students in 10 years; slow, steady growth compared with our neighbors to the west. When the author of the op-ed writes "The district’s student population is shrinking", his statement is simply not true.

About 18 months ago, the District hired DeJong-Richter, a nationally renowned school facilities audit group, to perform a study of Boise's facilities. One of the tasks they performed as part of the audit was a projection of future student enrollment.

The DeJong "moderate" enrollment projection report actually shows the growth slowing, followed by a period of slow decline. What the DeJong report does not include is the emergence of Syringa Valley, currently beginning development east of Cole Road and south of Orchard Street. Permits for the development had not been issued at the time of the study, but DeJong estimates that the development will yield about 1,400 students over time, all of which will be within the Timberline High School boundary. 

Additionally, it's important to understand that growth in student enrollment is always uneven. In Boise, the fastest growth thus far has been in southeast Boise - a drive out to the Harris Ranch area will reveal the rapid transformation of the area.

At the secondary level (junior high and high school) there's actually been strong growth in each school's enrollment. Here's what's happened since a 2008 boundary change gave each District high school 2 feeder junior highs.

The three junior highs that were under-enrolled a few years ago are now growing at a rapid clip. Hillside has been rediscovered by North End parents and students. Les Bois and East still have some room, but with the emergence of Syringa Valley, and growth in southeast Boise, they won't for long. 

So, when the op-ed author wrote "I wonder how much it would cost to move a few lines on a map?", he's not accounting for the future growth in south Boise, or even for the current growth in southeast Boise. It would be unwise to draw new boundaries at the junior high level, only to have to change them again in a couple of years. 

And what the op-ed author completely omitted in "doing his research" is that Timberline (built for 1150 students in 1998) will be affected greatly by the growth in student enrollment. In 3 years, the school will have at least 1350 students, and it's likely to have even more students thereafter as the growth in south Boise takes off. Without relief in the form of additional space at Timberline (the addition proposed in the current bond issue), boundary changes at the high school level will likely be necessary. 

Boundary changes are typically painful exercises, but are often necessary to ameliorate student population growth in one part of a district. The problem with the changes that may be necessary to relieve the growth at Timberline is that both Boise and Borah High Schools are at capacity. Capital is the high school which has some room. So such a change would likely involve changes in the boundaries of all 4 comprehensive high schools.