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Studies help district plan for future

I want to take this opportunity to provide you with an update on a pair of recent studies completed by the school district that will inform future planning.

District community survey

The first study was a community survey, conducted by an outside organization, Springsted Inc., that included telephone interviews with 320 registered voters. This survey was intended to mirror the demographic makeup of Alexandria School District. Since we have approximately 22 percent of our voters as parents of school-aged children and 78 percent who are non-parents of school-aged children, the survey reached out to the same ratio of parents to non-parents. Similarly, we surveyed more females than males due to the makeup of our community. The survey gathered data on the public's perception about the district's educational programs and financial management, as well as informing us of community priorities for future planning. We were also gathering information about which methods of communication are preferred by our stakeholders.

Overall, 76 percent of the respondents gave A or B grades to the school district for overall quality of work. The top three reasons they cite are: Quality of Instruction, Leadership and Management, and Academic Standards.

The survey provided insight into priorities for the school district suggesting highest support for maintaining class sizes, social/emotional/mental health programming, and maintaining current programming such as the real-world work force experiences.

The survey also asked voters for their opinions about potential tax impacts and for their opinions about potential facility improvements. These opinions will provide insight to the district for budget planning and weighing options as we address capacity and safety issues in some of our facilities.

Additionally, we learned that respondents view word of mouth, print materials, and electronic communications as key sources of information from the district. Mailed and electronic newsletter publications, and the Echo Press, are specific communication channels cited.

Enrollment projection study

Enrollment trends and data contribute to staffing, budget and program decisions each year. It is standard practice for the district to work with a consultant to review and update demographic information periodically, to ensure adequate long range planning.

Hazel Reinhardt Consulting Services was hired by the district to help determine future enrollment numbers. She projects district-wide enrollment to increase from between 11.9 percent to 13.7 percent over the next 10 years. In comparison, dating back to the 2008-09 school year, district enrollment increased by 7.0 percent over the last 10 years.

Hazel's report also revealed that the market share of the Alexandria Public Schools is 82.7 percent. In other words, we enroll 8 out of 10 of our resident students in our public schools, which is higher than statewide statistics.

We have a tradition of offering our students a tremendous education program. The community survey and the enrollment projection study will provide valuable foundational data to help frame planning discussions for the future.

An important step in the coming months will be engaging the school community in this process. Last month, I had the privilege of holding several small group stakeholder meetings with approximately 60 community members. This was our first round in sharing important topics that pertain to future enrollment, budget challenges, and community priorities identified through the community survey. We will continue to share information and gather stakeholder input in the coming months. Your continued support, engagement and interest in our schools and the limitless potential of our students is needed and appreciated!

• • •

Julie Critz is the superintendent of Alexandria Public Schools. "In the Know" is a rotating column written by community leaders from the Douglas County area.

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