Counting the kids: Enrollment assumptions differ, may hold up bond issue for Snoqualmie Valley schools

It’s a simple question, without a simple answer. How many students can the Snoqualmie Valley School District expect to be enrolled in coming years?

For budgeting and staffing purposes, it’s 5,949 full-time equivalent students next year. For facilities planning, according to last spring’s district capital facilities plan, it’s about 6,100 next year, and almost 7,000 by 2017.

For a bond campaign, the numbers are, some say, questionable.

School board members discussed their concerns about the demographer's projections at a work session Feb. 2, and briefly at the end of their Feb. 14 regular meeting, saying they wanted to resolve the dispute before going to voters for a bond this fall.

At issue are the discrepancies between the projections from Calm River Demographics and those roughly calculated by board members Carolyn Simpson and Geoff Doy, neither of whom made any claim to expertise in demography. Both Simpson and Doy felt that Calm River's projections were reliable through about 2020, but felt that they assumed more growth than either Snoqualmie or North Bend city staff were willing to project for the following years.

A November report from the district's usual demographer projects enrollment at between 7,000 (low end) and 7,500 (high end) by 2020, and between 7,500 and 8,500 by 2030.

"The implication of getting to the high point, to me, is beyond the realm of possibility…" said Doy. "There is no plan in either of the two major municipalities to embark on the development that would get us there."

Simpson said the projections would call for another community about the size of Snoqualmie Ridge to be developed somewhere within the district after 2020, "and at this point in time, I can't find anybody who thinks that's a possibility."

Dan Popp, who raised the issue, expressed concern about this debate delaying the board's discussion of a possible bond this fall.

"So, what do we do? What do we do to get to a number that we can all agree on is the right number?" he asked.

Several ideas were proposed, including a getting a second opinion from another demographer, but at the suggestion of Business Services Director Ryan Stokes, they agreed to bring their rough calculations back to Calm River and ask about the discrepancy. Board members Simpson and Popp agreed to meet with Calm River, along with Stokes, some time this week.

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