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Ogden school enrollment expected to fall 16% by 2031 as birth rate dips

By Tim Vandenack - | Dec 8, 2021

Tim Vandenack, Standard-Examiner

The new Polk Elementary, still taking shape, is to be ready for the 2022-2023 school year. School officials will be considering school boundary changes brought on by expected declining enrollment in years to come and the planned reopening of Polk and reconconstruction of other schools. The photo was taken Monday, Oct 4, 2021.

OGDEN — Enrollment in Ogden schools is expected to decline by nearly 16% over the next 10 years owing to an expected dip in the birth rate, says a consultant helping school officials as they weigh new school boundaries and the possible closure of more schools.

According to estimates pulled together by Davis Demographics, a consultant that specializes in studying school demographics, enrollment in Ogden School District schools is expected to fall from the current figure of 10,748 to 9,056 by 2031, a dip of 1,692 or 15.7%. The decline is expected to be particularly pronounced in the next five years, going from 10,748 to 9,514.

Representatives from Davis presented the figures to Ogden School Board members last week to help them as they mull changes to boundaries for the 2022-2023 school year, school closures even.

“I think this is going to help us a lot in deciding where we go from here with our boundaries and building and land,” said Jennifer Zundel, the board president.

Zane Woolstenhulme, the district’s business administrator, said proposed recommendations for new boundaries for the 2022-2023 school year could be prepared by February. “The district has already put together an administrative team to work with Davis Demographics to come up with some scenarios and recommendations that we’ll be bringing to the board for consideration,” he said.

Figuring in the calculations, Woolstenhulme said, will be new schools expected to open in the coming school year, the revamped Polk Elementary and Liberty Elementary, a brand new school replacing T.O. Smith Elementary. Taylor Canyon Elementary, just blocks from Polk, will close next year as Polk reopens.

Though school closures were mentioned as a possibility when the district announced last September that officials were mulling school boundary changes, the issue didn’t pop up at last Thursday’s school board meeting. The focus was mainly on the data compiled thus far by Davis Demographics.

Though the Davis Demographics reps cited declining birth rates as a factor behind expected school enrollment declines in Ogden, they also noted the district’s declining “market share” of incoming kindergarteners. That, perhaps, could reflect higher birth rates outside Ogden in the rest of Weber County, served by the much larger Weber School District.

“It’s not dramatic, but there’s that gradual decline over the next 10 years,” said Georgia Leonard, a GIS analyst for Davis Demographics. Younger generations, said Lorne Woods, senior project manager for the company, aren’t having as many kids as prior generations.

The decline among kindergarten-sixth grade students is more moderate, expected to go from 5,768 of the district’s student body to 5,354, a 7.2% decline. “You’re seeing a decline, but it’s not crazy significant,” Leonard said.

The dip in junior high and high school students, meantime, is expected to go from 4,980 to 3,702, a sharper 25.7% reduction.

Davis Demographics’ enrollment figures reflect a notable dip in Ogden schools brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, from 11,888 in the 2019-2020 school year to 10,933 in 2020-2021. Rather than rebounding in 2021-2022, the figure dipped slightly again, to 10,748.

Gramercy Elementary closed after the 2018-2019 school year, though the building is being used this year to house T.O. Smith Elementary students pending completion of Liberty Elementary. Gramercy is to remain shuttered after the current school year ends, though, and taken together with the planned closure of Taylor Canyon, the number of elementary schools in the Ogden School District will decline to 12 from 14 in the 2018-2019 school year.

If school officials mull new school closures in conjunction with the redrawing of boundaries, Jer Bates, the district spokesperson, has said Bonneville, Hillcrest and James Madison elementaries would be the only likely candidates given their age.

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