Board of Education, commissioners discuss county population, school enrollment

Emily Chappell
Contact ReporterCarroll County Times

Commissioners and school board members met to swap resources and ideas as conversations around future county population and school enrollment continued this week.

Members of the Board of County Commissioners — excluding Doug Howard, R-District 5, who was not in attendance — met with the Carroll County Public Schools Board of Education in one of the many work sessions the BOE has held in the last few months.

In July, the school board will choose the process and parameters by which it will move forward with redistricting and enrollment discussions, CCPS Superintendent Stephen Guthrie said at the meeting. Wednesday's work session was a chance to go over information and the tools available to help make eventual decisions, he said.

The school system has some "sophisticated tools," he said.

"We continue to see decline in enrollment in the northwest part of the county, even in middle schools," Guthrie said.

Commissioners and the school board on Wednesday looked at CCPS projected maps through a geographic information system, which allows data to lay on top of each other, and showed possible trends in the future.

And what those tools are showing, at least in the foreseeable future, is declining enrollment.

As those numbers go down, CCPS needs to set target goals for building utilization, school board President Devon Rothschild said. And in that, they need to keep in mind special regional programs and set different utilizations for buildings that house them.

"I think that that's going to be important," she said.

Bill Caine, facility planner for CCPS, said the biggest takeaway looking at the projections is that the decline isn't in a specific area, but rather is happening slowly throughout the entire county.

Part of the issue, Carroll County Department of Planning Director Phil Hager said, is that while Carroll County has a high occupancy rate in the homes that exist, many are older people who don't have children in the school system anymore. And total population numbers will go down when those people die.

"As our population ages, then our population will eventually decline," Hager added.

Commissioner Richard Rothschild, R-District 4, said because of this, it takes longer for houses to be available because they're waiting for them to turn over after those who have aged in place die.

But if the county wants to add growth and build more houses, there's another issue, said Commissioner Dennis Frazier, R-District 3. Carroll needs road projects — like the widening of roads — completed, and more water allocations to be able to build homes and have enough water resources, he said.

"We need both those things to happen" to try to bring in families with kids, he added.

Devon Rothschild said as they move forward, the school board would like to know where the county is predicting growth and decline. They don't want to discuss redistricting or possibly closing more schools without knowing what areas could see a boom in growth, she added.

The school board will meet again next week for a work session on Strategic Plan Measures of Success. The meeting will be held at 4 p.m. May 31 at the board offices in Westminster.


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