The study, commissioned by the Cobb School District and performed by Riverside, Calif.-based Davis Demographics and Planning at a cost of $77,400, is designed to predict population shifts in the county through 2023.
While overall student population is expected to grow from 108,315 in 2014 to 114,023 in 2023 — a change of 5,708, or 5.3 percent — the growth won’t be even across the county. South Cobb will have major growth, while the northwestern part of the county will lose population, according to the study.
Lorne Woods, regional office and project manager for Davis Demographics, presented results of the study to the Cobb school board during a day long meeting Wednesday.
“This changes a lot of our planning moving forward,” Interim Cobb Schools Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said.
One takeaway from the findings is Ragsdale said a new high school “absolutely” will need to be built in south Cobb during the next 10 years.
The study looked at birth rates, transiency, apartment migration, housing sales and high school dropout rates in making its predictions.
A big factor in the growth projections is birth rates, which the study says will drop in Cobb in the next decade.
Elementary school enrollment is expected to shrink from 49,612 students in 2014 to 47,706 students in 2023, even though the school system will grow overall.
Elementary schools expecting the biggest population growth are Powder Springs Elementary, Riverside Primary, Smyrna Elementary and Brumby Elementary. Schools, including Ford Elementary, Frey Elementary, Kennesaw Primary and McCall Primary, will lose students.
Middle school enrollment sits at 24,972 in 2014. It’s expected to peak at 27,685 in 2020, before falling to 25,687 in 2023. South Cobb schools Griffin Middle School and Lindley Middle will grow, while northwest Cobb schools such as Durham Middle and Lost Mountain Middle will lose students.
High school enrollment will see the biggest growth, the study says, rising from 34,731 students in 2014 to 40,630 students in 2023. Osborne, Campbell and Pebblebrook will grow the most, while Allatoona, Harrison and North Cobb will lose students.
School board member Tim Stultz asked about the possibility of redistricting owing to the projected shifts.
“Redistricting, as a short-term option, might need to be looked at,” he said.
School board member Brad Wheeler also asked about the possibility of redistricting, including the planned $39.9 million renovation at Walton High School, but Ragsdale said it isn’t in the cards.
Ragsdale did say projections for the size of the Walton rebuild could increase by about 800, as the school’s attendance zone is expected to grow, but again said the school system is not looking to change attendance zones.
“We are not looking to redistrict Walton,” Ragsdale said.
Randy Scamihorn, the school board vice chair, said he wonders about the validity of the study’s findings about northwest Cobb losing population.
“I’m skeptical about it,” said Scamihorn, who represents the area. “That area is exploding right now.”
The district conducts demographic studies every five to seven years, but Ragsdale stressed the need to update the projections every couple of years.
Woods agreed, citing the 2008 recession as an event changing demographic projections.
“It was not a good year for demographers in 2007,” he said. “With these studies you need to revisit, revisit, revisit.”
The study was conducted between October 2013 and March 2014, Ragsdale said.