Population at South projected to decline


Connor Fondrevay-Bedell, asst. news editor

As South looks to the future and prepares for school years to come, a newly released report forecasts a drop in the student population of several hundred students in the next 10 years, Associate Superintendent Dr. R.J. Gravel shared.

The report projects the student population to drop to 2,628 students in the 2031-2032 school year, down from the current size of 3,080 students, Gravel said. The 31-32 school year projection would bring South to its lowest population since 2011, when 2,644 students attended, according to the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) released on June 30, 2020, a document laying out population size and services used by students.

The 10-year forecast of the student population is important because it influences how South operates, Interim Principal Dr. Rosanne Williamson said. The 10-year forecast helps the district predict larger trends, while the school relies on 2-to-3-year projections for near term decisions.

“When we [manage] staffing and account for how many teachers we need, we take into account what the projections [are] for the future,” Williamson said. “[A district-hired demographer] looks at the elementary schools, what housing turnover looks like, and then they give their estimate [based on] that.”

Senior Sloan Greenfield believes a shrinking population will have a positive impact on South by allowing students to move around the school more easily. Crowded hallways have made it difficult to get to class on time, Greenfield said, and with such a large student body and so few facilities, it can make certain tasks impossible.

“You [are] not able to use the bathroom before class because the lines are too large,” Greenfield said. “That has been a [problem] for me and [my friends].”

A smaller student population could also help students get to know each other better, Greenfield said. Students at smaller schools in the area have an easier time interacting and it’s unfortunate that South doesn’t have that experience, Greenfield explained.

“I knew everybody at Maple [Middle School, and] even if I wasn’t close with them, I knew them by name and we [at least] had a conversation,” Greenfield said. “I can confidently say that I’ve never had a conversation with over half of our grade and it baffles me because I’m [realizing] I’ve [only] met half of my senior class.”

The total number of students enrolled at South has been declining since 2019, when the school population peaked at 3,193 students, Gravel said. That year was known as a “bubble class”, because the school’s total population had a specific factor causing the change in size. The reason for the peak was the development of The Glen Town Center, which was converted into housing after previously being a military base, Gravel said.

“With The Glen, we tracked [the population] very clearly,” Gravel said. “This natural “bubble class” was fully anticipated, and is very much attributed to why South hit its highest peak [in 2019].”

South worked on expansions and modifications to accommodate the larger class size since 2014, the CAFR shows. In 2014, South had the capacity to teach 2,753 students, but over the past six years that has expanded to 3,200 students, the CAFR said. The main limiting factor for student size is the availability of science labs, which can only hold a certain number of students, Gravel said. To address that, he explained that a new science classroom was constructed in the 2016-2017 school year to expand capacity.

“[The new classroom] opened up eight additional blocks of lab-based classroom space to be scheduled,” Gravel said.

There are multiple developments in the Glenbrook community that might cause revisions in the projections, Gravel said. This year, an increase in transfer students and last minute registrations led to a higher student population than predicted.

Allstate Insurance Company is selling their headquarters to new developers, and part of the property could be transformed into a residential area and the Allstate campus would likely fall under South’s attendance boundaries, Gravel shared. Construction across from Plaza del Prado could also impact South if it includes  housing, so future projections may be subject to change, Gravel explained.

“If we see another [population] boost [from construction], that could lead to a whole other ‘bubble class’ being created,” Gravel said. “We might see growth [from Plaza del Prado construction]. It all depends on what’s going to happen with factors that we can’t control but we can [continue to] monitor.”