RACINE — With thousands of new housing units set to be constructed within the district, Racine Unified officials are working to stay apprised of what that might mean for future enrollment.
Construction has already begun at the site of the Foxconn Technology Group campus in Mount Pleasant, but it’s unclear what impact the development will have on the community and the school district. Unified spokeswoman Stacy Tapp said it would unwise for the district to assume that all workers who come to the area for Foxconn or other developments will bring children who will attend district schools.
According to TeamWorks International, the Minnesota company that has studied the issue for Racine Unified, there are currently plans for 6,186 apartments and condos within the district, as well as about 2,500 single-family homes.
TeamWorks founder Dennis Cheesebrow, who presented his company’s findings to the School Board on June 3, said his team worked under the assumption that each apartment and condo would bring 0.13 to 0.2 students and each single-family home would bring 0.35 to 0.56 students.
It’s estimated that if no Foxconn-related development happens, in five years the district’s enrollment will decrease to about 16,600. Enrollment for the 2018-19 school year was 18,555.
“At this point there is much uncertainty around what impact Foxconn will have on the region and when it will occur,” Cheesebrow said.
In addition to looking at the impact of development on enrollment, TeamWorks also examined the district’s market share — or the percentage of school-age students living in the district and attending a Unified school.
Cheesebrow presented the board with a goal of increasing the district’s overall market share to 75%. The district is currently at about 72%, but in some areas the percentages are much higher or lower.
The district’s enrollment estimate for 2023-24 increases to 20,000 when TeamWorks’ highest development related numbers are used in conjunction with an increase in market share.
According to TeamWorks’ estimates, some schools could see significant impact from the planned housing developments while others are likely to see little or no enrollment change.
At the high end of the company’s estimates, Johnson Elementary, 2420 Kentucky St., would be at 127 percent of capacity by the 2023-24 school year with 713 students compared to this year’s 478.
Other schools that are expected to see significant increases are Schulte Elementary School in Sturtevant, Case High School in Mount Pleasant and the already crowded Gifford K-8 in Caledonia. Olympia Brown, also in Caledonia and which was already over capacity in the 2018-19 school year, is also expected to see increases with a high-end estimate of 583 students in 2023-24, which would put it at 160 percent of its capacity.
In comparison, Knapp Elementary School, 2701 17th St., is expected — at the most — to have the same number of students as it does now in 2023-24, with low estimates predicting a slight decrease in enrollment.
Cheesebrow said he’s confident the numbers will change over the next two years, but added that his company’s role is to keep the board and administration informed and help Unified to be proactive instead of reactive to changes going on in the community.
Tapp said that Unified is working with TeamWorks for several reasons, and one of them is facilities planning. If the district decides to build a new school or expand an existing one, it is working to ensure that increased capacity correlates with expected increased enrollment.
“We need to be thoughtful about planning, Tapp said.
Looking at market share could drive the design of academic programming and services and location of facilities, Cheesebrow said. Unified Superintendent Eric Gallien said the district will be looking at what it can do to mitigate lost market share.
Gallien added that Unified recaptured some lost market share after constructing an addition to Gifford Elementary School, 8332 Northwestern Ave., and making it a K-8 campus in 2016.
Generally, Unified’s market share is higher in the middle of the district in the City of Racine and lower on the outskirts of the district. It’s especially low in Wind Point, where the private Prairie School is located.
“This is just to give the board a sense of how drastically things have changed in the last five months, and they will continue to change,” Gallien said of TeamWorks’ presentation.