During a West Linn-Wilsonville work session Monday, Jan. 22, the school board decided to switch demographics companies to ensure its facilities are available and are meeting students' and the district's needs.
For the past 10 years, the WL-WV School District used Davis Demographics to forecast student enrollment, but many board members were not satisfied with the company's numbers.
So Ginger Fitch, school board chair, and board member Dylan Hydes recently met with representatives from Davis Demographics and another firm, Flow Analytics, to discuss their services.
"(Davis Demographic's) numbers weren't exact and we wanted to know 'Was the variance we saw in those numbers industry standards? Were they outside the norm? Should we expect better?'" Hydes said.
"From 2011-2012, Davis Demographics predicted the district would grow by 37 students and it actually grew by 235 in that one year."
He also said he noticed that in 2011, as a baseline, the district had 8,465 students and Davis predicted over the next five years — by 2016 — the district would grow by 137 students, when it actually grew by 1,172 students.
"Their growth rate was off by almost 1,000 percent," Hydes said, adding that when he asked the Davis representative about these particular numbers he replied that they were "terrible, unacceptable and garbage," but could not provide clear answers as to why the numbers were off, if the district could have given more information to ensure accuracy or how they could improve projections in the future.
Davis predicted the district would grow to 10,129 students by 2017, but instead it grew to 9,902 students, according to data collected in September.
WL-WV Superintendent Kathy Ludwig noted that perhaps the district needed to provide Davis with more information.
For example, in 2011, the district decided to participate in open enrollment — allowing students outside the district to attend WL-WV schools. Those incoming students may have skewed the numbers, offered Andrew Kilstrom, director of communications for the district.
This year, the school district opted to close open enrollment at Rosemont Ridge Middle School, Arts and Technology High School, and Trillium Creek and Lowrie Primaries. But they let siblings of students who are already in the district attend other schools.
"In fairness, we need to also keep them informed about some of the changes we are making," Ludwig said.
If the district switched to Flow, the start-up cost will be about $20,000, significantly higher than the Davis Demographic's annual cost. But after the initial start-up, the cost should be comparable in subsequent years.
In the meeting with the Flow representative, the company said that in a five-year plan, it hoped to project within 2 percent of the actual numbers; and on a year-to-year basis it hopes to come within .5 to 1 percent of the actual numbers.
After deliberation during the Monday meeting, the school board decided to switch demographics companies to Flow in hopes to ensure more accurate enrollment projections.
It will take about six months to have Flow's system in place, learn the WL-WV School District and get ground work done before they can give projections and the first report.
"We have colleagues in our county and across the state that use both of these contractors with great satisfaction and I hope that nothing that's been said tonight in terms of us figuring out what's right for us is interpreted as a reflection of work or services that another district may not feel they can now count on," Ludwig said.
Board member Regan Molatore agrees and adds that change isn't always a bad thing.
"We've learned that on our own part there's more information and stuff that maybe we need to be sharing but it's easy enough to overlook with everything else that's going," Molatore said.
"If nothing else, this is a really good exercise for our district in building new partnerships as well as it's informed us of how we could have a better partnership with this next entity."