Planning for student growth

One of the most challenging variables in forecasting the needs of Lincoln Public Schools is managing the student growth and specifically the number of new families moving to Lincoln.

Historically, Lincoln has had about 1.5% growth and the school district has mirrored the community as a whole with 1.5%  growth. So, we would have between 350 to 500 students each year. However, in the last five years, that percentage has changed dramatically for the school district. In the last five years, we’ve seen 12% growth. More than 850 students a year every year straight for five years with projected 950 new students for next year, pushing our total enrollment toward 41,000.

When we think about 950 additional students, that would be an additional middle school, two additional elementary schools, and what we’re finding when we talk to schools and they talk to families about “What brings you here?”, “Why are you coming to Lincoln?”, is that families with children are choosing Lincoln. They’re choosing Lincoln as a place to relocate predominantly for the school setting that we can provide. Families are coming from all across the nation. We often find more than 30 states represented when we do kind of an informal poll and students from across the globe.

Our largest classes don’t come just at the elementary or kindergarten level, they come all across the system and we’ve actually transitioned to having classes that are 2,500 to 2,800 to classes that are over 3,000 and that bubble of classes of students meaning one entire grade of students being over 3,000 closer to a 3,200 is now moving into our high schools and we’ll be feeling it in our high schools throughout the community.

When I talk about growth, it’s also important to talk about not only that we’re growing in students, we’ve been pretty traditional in how we think about student growth but we’re not growing in the traditional ways that Lincoln has. For example, if we’re growing with students in the English Language Learner program predominately students who are new to the United States for the first time without English as a background, that is an investment in the budget to serve that child.
So, we focus greatly on the student growth but also the student needs that come with the growth and how we propose and prepare the budget for the community.