Chesterton Tribune



Tribune takes a look at Duneland Schools enrollment and capacity

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The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) has released the September Average Daily Membership (ADM) count for Indiana schools--Duneland’s September ADM was 5,872 students.

ADM--along with other factors-- is used to calculate how much state funding Indiana public schools receive. Duneland gets a per student allocation for basic tuition support based on the September ADM. Though another ADM count is taken in February, only the September ADM is used to determine funding.

Last school year, Duneland received $5,273 in basic tuition support per student for 5,840 students. This year, Duneland is getting $5,352 per student in basic tuition support. Both this year and last year, Duneland also received $385 per student as a result of the IDOE’s complexity grant, which accounts for demographics such as how many students come from low-income households, the number of honors graduates, and the number of special needs students a school serves. So, the combined total state tuition support Duneland got per student was $5,658 in the 2017-2018 school year and is $5,737 this year.

A snapshot of Duneland’s August enrollment provided by the administration shows the following enrollment numbers for 2018-2019: Bailly Elementary, 444; Brummitt Elementary, 327; Jackson Elementary, 296; Liberty Elementary, 502; Yost Elementary, 376; Liberty Intermediate, 367; Westchester Intermediate, 502; CMS, 974; CHS, 2,066. The total enrollment reflected by those numbers is 5,854, which means that 18 students were added to the mix by the time of the ADM headcount, which is self-reported by school officials.

The ADM and Duneland’s enrollment in general are important for a number of reasons. Not only does enrollment dictate funding, the effectiveness of or need for supplemental property tax referendum funds, the impact of the out-of-district transfer student population, how soon Duneland will outgrow its facilities, and how much one-on-one attention staff can provide also depend on how many students walk the halls of each Duneland school.

These issues have been at the forefront of the Board’s discussions this year, with the referendum circling back to voters next year and the Board’s pledge to address the transfer student policy in early 2019.

Those factors are also some of the reasons the Board retained Dr. Robert Boyd, an emeritus professor in Indiana State University’s department of Educational Leadership, to conduct a new comprehensive study of the Duneland School Corporation this year. He did one before, in 2008.

Boyd presented his report to the Board in June, where he was met with some skepticism due to the fact that his 2008 projections for an enrollment increase fell flat--and the Board bought land based on those projections.

Boyd defended the projections by saying that he couldn’t have predicted the recession in 2008. His report was completed before it hit. According to his 2018 report, the projections contained therein, “tend to be accurate within 1 and a half percent six years out, barring significant economic change.”

This is due to the fact that several of Boyd’s major considerations in the study, such as how many people are having kids in Porter County/Duneland and moving into the district relate to major financial decisions people are more likely to make when their finances are stable.

In short, his 2018 findings suggest a slight decrease in enrollment is on the horizon at Duneland.

The Chesterton Tribune took an independent look at Duneland’s IDOE enrollment data for the past five school years and reviewed the full findings of Boyd’s study.

Is enrollment decreasing?

A look at Duneland’s enrollment data over the last few years shows stable or slightly decreasing enrollment, though some grade levels at some schools have seen one-time surges or drops of more than 20 students from year to year.

For example, grade five enrollment jumped 39 students between the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years. In the same timeframe, however, grade seven enrollment dropped 27 students. The largest year-to-year change was an increase--grade six enrollment increased by 40 students between the 2014-2015 and the 2015-2016 school years. Grade 12 enrollment saw a drop of 39 students from the 2013-2014 to the 2014-2015 school year. None of these changes were part of a notable pattern.

According to that data, Duneland had a total enrollment of 5,901 students at its nine schools for the 2013-2014 school year. Duneland’s enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year was 5,816--a decrease of 85 students compared to 2013 levels.

Since 2013, total elementary enrollment, grades K-4 at five Duneland schools, dropped by 79 students, or 3.98 percent. The two intermediate schools, grades 5 and 6, saw a net loss of only two students. Enrollment for CMS dropped by 30 students, a 2.95 percent decrease, and enrollment for CHS increased by 26 students, or 1.28 percent. The difference between 2013 enrollment levels and this years ADM represents a decrease of 29 students--a fractional percentage.

The IDOE’s data on enrollment is public and can be viewed here

Boyd projects decreases/stability will continue in part because Porter County schools, and schools across the state are losing students to online, private, and charter schools due to the voucher program. “The state voucher programs have a negative effect on DSC continuation rates. In 2017, $151,159,000 in state tuition support went to 35,500 voucher students in Indiana. Just 274 vouchers went for students transferring from “F” rated schools, while the rest went to private, parochial, and charter schools. DSC lost $876,436 in state tuition support alone to private, parochial, and charter schools,” according to Boyd’s report. The 2017 loss in support was due to 434 students transferring out of Duneland, when only 276 transferred in for a net loss of 158 students.

Another reason for Boyd’s projection that DSC will see a decrease of 324 students, or 5.5 percent between now and 2026 is that Porter County’s birth rate is declining, and Porter County’s median age is older than the state average--40.3 years--and the number of Porter County residents over 65 is projected by other research to increase by 67.8 percent by 2035.

How closely do Boyd’s projections match the last five years at Duneland? The data indicates that the outcome he projects is mainly a continuation of what’s been happening already at Duneland: stable to decreasing enrollment with little fluctuation.

Is Duneland crowded?

Other factors, including student-staff ratios and space utilization at each school, however, can mean that some schools are more crowded or seem more crowded than others.

Assistant Superintendent for Operations and Human Resources Monte Moffet told the Chesterton Tribune how many salaried, licensed staff members (teachers and media specialists) were at each school at the start of the 2017-2018 school year. The following student-staff ratios are based on those numbers. For simplicity, the ratios were rounded to the nearest whole number and calculated without accounting for a handful of teachers who travel between campuses for classes like band, orchestra, and foreign cultures. Administrators are also not included.

Bailly Elementary, 18:1; Brummitt Elementary, 17:1; Jackson Elementary, 19:1; Liberty Elementary 17:1; Yost Elementary, 16:1; Liberty Intermediate, 18:1; Westchester Intermediate, 21:1; CMS, 21:1; CHS, 20:1.

Though Jackson Elementary has the lowest enrollment, it has the most students per licensed staff member among the elementary schools because it also has the fewest licensed staff members. Westchester Intermediate, despite having roughly half as many students, is on par with CMS in terms of the student-staff ratio.

As for school counselors, each elementary or intermediate school has one. CMS has two counselors for 974 students, and CHS has six counselors for 2,066 students.

Boyd reported on space utilization in his study to gauge how much room Duneland has left for growth. Boyd provides two numbers for capacity: actual capacity and functional capacity. For the purpose of the study, actual capacity represents the number of students that can potentially fit in each school, assuming 25 students should be the maximum per classroom for every available classroom space, and functional capacity is based on how instructional space is currently used. Boyd used these figures to calculate the percentage of instructional space available and being used at each school, essentially a measure of how much room there is for a growing student population.

According to Boyd, “Taken together the nine facilities are being utilized at 97.4 percent of their functional capacity and 78.5% of their actual capacity.” Boyd’s projections indicate that if Duneland’s enrollment remains stable or decreases, its existing facilities will be adequate for at least 20 years. Boyd’s definition of adequate for 20 years of functional life is, “Facility is generally structurally sound, well-maintained, and contains spaces which are appropriate for a modern educational program. It’s functional student capacity provides for effective and efficient educational programming.” Boyd adds that “The DSC facilities are exceptionally well-maintained.”

Moffet said, from a practical standpoint, the functional capacity is more about staff and actual capacity is more about square footage. For example, having 50 classrooms doesn’t automatically improve functional capacity if there are only 38 teachers to use them. However, Moffet said the actual capacity of each school indicates Duneland isn’t in danger of overcrowding its facilities and needing more space soon. “It’s not about having a new building. We have the space to have that many students,” Moffet said.

When Moffet said “that many students,” he meant 7,480 students--which is the combined actual capacity of the nine Duneland Schools, according to Boyd’s report. The combined functional capacity of the nine schools is 6,029.

As both numbers are well above the current ADM, Moffet said, “Are we overcrowding our schools? The answer is no because our capacity is much greater than our enrollment.”

When Boyd went before the Board, he made a note that there are classroom spaces in every school not being utilized for instruction, and those can be used before physical expansion of the facilities would be required. Moffet in turn said that the rooms Boyd labels as “resource room,” “teacher workroom,” and “unassigned,” are spaces that can be converted for classroom use, as well as some space used for storage.


For 21 general purpose classrooms, the functional capacity of Bailly Elementary is 442 students. The actual capacity is 525. Boyd wrote, “However, some six classroom areas could be used to accommodate a regular classroom group without any negative impact on facility utilization and effective and efficient educational programming.”

For 25 general purpose classrooms, the functional capacity of Brummitt Elementary is 323 students. The actual capacity is 375. Again, Boyd says six classroom areas could be used for more instructional space without interfering in students’ education.

For 13 general purpose classrooms, the functional capacity of Jackson Elementary is 265 students. The actual capacity is 325. Boyd says 11 classroom areas could be used for more instructional space without interfering in students’ education.

For 24 general purpose classrooms, the functional capacity of Liberty Elementary is 480 students. The actual capacity is 600. Boyd said nine classroom areas can be used for more instructional space without interfering in students’ education.

For 18 general purpose classrooms, the functional capacity of Yost Elementary is 359 students. The actual capacity is 450. Boyd said three classroom areas could be used for more instructional space without interfering in students’ education.

For 16 general purpose classrooms, the functional capacity and actual capacity of Liberty Intermediate are the same: 400 students. Boyd says “several” classroom areas could be used for more instructional space without interfering in students’ education. in addition to the general purpose classrooms, there are three rooms Boyd labeled “workroom” and two Boyd labeled “unassigned.”

For 21 general purpose classrooms, the functional capacity and actual capacity of Westchester Intermediate are the same: 525 students. Again, Boyd said “several” classroom areas could be converted without interfering in students’ education. In addition to the general classrooms, there are two rooms Boyd labeled “unassigned.”

For 61 general purpose classrooms, the functional capacity of CMS is 1,225 students. The actual capacity is 1,600. Based on enrollment for the 2017-2018 school year, Boyd said CMS is operating at only 58.9 percent of its actual capacity.

For 112 general purpose classrooms, the functional capacity of CHS is 2,010 students. The actual capacity is 2,680. Based on 2017-2018 enrollment, Boyd said CHS is being used at 80.7 percent of its actual capacity.



Posted 12/6/2018






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