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Demographer Report Indicates Upward Trend in Enrollment Starting in 2021-22 School Year

New rooftops are being built—and new students are coming--according to the Spring 2021 Demographic Study presented to Cleburne ISD Trustees at the April 19 school board meeting.

                Bob Templeton of Templeton Demographics told Trustees, in reviewing new home construction in and around Cleburne and within the district’s boundaries, to anticipate growth in enrollment in the upcoming school year with a projection of 370 students. An additional 250 new students are predicted in 2022-23.

                Over the past several years, the District has seen enrollment grow at a small but steady pace, with 165 students added between 2015-16 and the current school year. District enrollment now stands at 6,804. Templeton said that was about to change—quickly.

                “The housing construction we are seeing in Cleburne is consistent with what is happening across the Dallas/Fort Worth region,” Templeton said. “Cleburne is among the communities seeing a significant increase, and projections indicate that will remain the case moving forward. In the foreseeable future, you will see the construction of 200-300 new homes per year.”

                Templeton credits a portion of the movement to Cleburne to changes in the workplace and job market to the impact of COVID.

                “Jobs are coming back as businesses reopen,” he said. “We are also in a new era with the hybrid work model becoming the new norm. Commuting to the office isn’t the factor it once was. Companies are allowing virtual work from home. Areas outside the ‘commute ring’ are now desirable. We are seeing no easing up in new housing—we believe construction will remain strong even during a possible COVID recession.”

                While a small portion of the growth in enrollment projected for the 2021-22 school year will include a percentage of CISD students returning to the classroom following a year in remote learning due to COVID, the district’s decline in on-campus learners this year was far less than what was experienced in many school systems across the region. Cleburne opened the school year with face-to-face instruction, while also providing a remote learning option with the same level of rigor and performance expectations as the classroom.

                “In a school year overshadowed by COVID, Cleburne reflected a decline of 1.5 percent, mostly in early elementary enrollment,” Templeton said. “Districts in D/FW have seen a 5-6 percent student enrollment decline.”

                Templeton’s report to Trustees was highlighted by a five and ten-year forecast in growth projections from a variety of views: by grade level, by campus—and by new grade reconfigurations which will only go into effect with the passage of the 2021 bond referendum. The last two days of early voting on the “no tax rate increase” referendum and its three propositions will be conducted Monday and Tuesday at the Cleburne Conference Center, with hours expanding to 7 a.m.-7 p.m. 

                The new alignment plan would have elementary campuses serving Pre-Kindergarten through fourth grade. The current Smith Middle School would convert to a grades 5-6 intermediate campus, while Wheat Middle School would return to its original use as a campus serving the district’s seventh and eighth graders.

“When the District’s Academic Alignment Advisory Committee made their recommendation for new grade configurations, it was based on providing students with optimum opportunities for learning, social and emotional development and stable, long-term connections with their grade-level peers,” Superintendent Dr. Kyle Heath said. “Creating the most prudent, economical and extended use of existing facilities to best meet the needs of students was also a primary factor. Now, projected growth within the district, coming as early as 2021-22, has become an additional element in the equation.”

The five year forecast for CISD shows an enrollment of 7,900 students, with close to 9,000 predicted by 2031. The new Cleburne High School, which opened in 2019, was designed for 2,500 students, with available site space to grow. Preliminary enrollment projections project a student base of 2,400 by 2031.

“Our demographer has told us we will be seeing marked growth in the younger grades,” Heath said. “The new campus configurations, which will only be utilized if the bond election passes, will move the fifth grade off our elementary campuses, in creating a 5th-6th grade intermediate school at Smith. That will give us space to grow and help ease the potential for overcrowding at our elementary schools for at least three years. It will give us time, working with parents and community stakeholders, to make the best decision in determining how we address this new growth.”

In anticipation of ongoing growth in enrollment, CISD Trustees approved the purchase of property in the Belle Meadows addition in January of 2020 as the potential site for a future school.

“Gerard, Marti, Cooke and Coleman are all campuses we must look at, due to their current campus numbers,” Heath said. “If we don’t realign our grade configurations, these four campuses will be close to functional capacity by 2023-24,” Heath said. “The District will have to look at redrawing elementary attendance lines in our efforts to address overcrowding.”

Major renovations and additions proposed in Bond 2021 for Wheat Middle School, with minor renovations and additions at Smith as an intermediate campus, will allow both sites to serve a capacity of 1,400 students. Ten-year growth predictions reflect enrollment numbers in the 1,330s at both schools.

 “There’s a lot to consider, moving forward, if these predicted numbers hold true,” Heath said. “The projections presented to us by Templeton Demographics are conservative. We believed the passage of Bond 2016 would spur economic growth--and we have seen investors and new housing come since the community passed that bond. From the emphasis on STEM at the elementary level, a rigorous robotics program for middle school students and numerous Career and Technical Education opportunities at Cleburne High School, families outside our district are interested in coming to Cleburne.”

 “The good part to all this is we are blessed to be in a community that supports our students and our education system,” Heath said. “We are looking forward to the economic growth that is being brought to our community through the construction of additional rooftops. We are excited to welcome more families—and students--to Cleburne ISD.”