Demographer predicts Franklin Regional’s drop in students will start to reverse in 2025
As Franklin Regional school officials move ahead with a study to determine what improvements will be necessary at buildings throughout the district, they need to consider a projected drop in the number of high school students, according to a retired Carnegie Mellon professor.
While births across the district have dropped steadily for more than a decade, that trend isn’t expected to continue forever, demographer Shelby Stewman told school board members this week.
Births districtwide decreased 22 percent in a decade, from a high of 224 in 2004 to 174 in 2014.
“That’s reflected in the numbers for your elementary schools,” said Stewman. “But the most important thing is that I expect a big turnaround.”
That reversal is connected to what Stewman called an “echo boom,” which includes the current generation tagged as “millennials.” It follows the original “baby boom” that peaked nationally in 1957 and the “baby bust,” which bottomed out toward the mid-1970s.
The effect of that turnaround as reflected in district enrollment, however, is unlikely to happen in the next decade.
Stewman said the most likely of projection models he ran was one in which:
• Elementary enrollment climbs steadily from about 1,400 in 2016 to 1,540 in 2025;
• Middle school enrollment remains relatively steady, hovering in the mid-700s range;
• High school enrollment drops from more than 1,200 to just under 1,000.
In running six different models, the high school enrollment drop ranged from 100 to 230, which would be a roughly 19 percent drop from the current student population.
Stewman said the “echo boom” is likely to last until 2040. In the meantime, district enrollment will make up some ground thanks to families moving into the district with preschool-age children.
“It’s sort of ironic given that there’s no housing boom,” Stewman said, noting a peak of 138 new houses built in 2002 has fallen to “40-something” now. “That’s not to be critical of Murrysville; that’s just the reality.”
Stewman said he anticipates high school enrollment eventually will grow, though not in the next decade.
“It will drop way down, and then it will have to feed back up from kindergarten on forward,” he said.
Now a consultant, Stewart has done demographic studies for several school districts in the region, including Pine-Richland, North Hills, Plum and Hampton, He was paid $16,000 for the Franklin Regional analysis.
School board President Larry Borland said the information Stewman presented is valuable in light of decisions the board will need to make soon regarding its buildings.
“There are a lot of factors that come into play regarding refurbishing and remodeling,” Borland said. “One of the big issues is what our student population probably or possibly will be, and this will help us make the best decision possible about the future.”
District officials will learn more about that future at 6 p.m. Thursday, when the second of three meetings on a facilities study is held at Franklin Regional Middle School, 4660 Old William Penn Highway, Murrysville.
Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862 or [email protected].