A once sought-after school district is now grappling with the significant challenge of declining student enrollment figures.
On Monday, Plano Independent School District held the first of six public meetings to discuss ways to address the steady decrease in student enrollment these past few years. The monthly meetings will run until April, giving parents and other community stakeholders a chance to chime in on potential school closures and other major changes likely to occur in the district.
During the meeting, Plano ISD officials told the public that its school system had been logging a steady decline in enrollees, now seeing only 47,800 students in the current school year. The district reached a peak in 2012 with a student body of 55,700.
This may seem paradoxical, considering that Collin County has seen significant population growth over the past few years, rising from 782,341 in 2010 to 1,158,696 in 2022, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Yet this phenomenon has been seen elsewhere, with most public school systems across the state — even those in hot demand like Frisco ISD — keeping a close eye on enrollment. Fewer enrolled students means less state funds, with schools currently getting a base amount of $6,160 per student.
Some districts have enacted plans to cope with decreases in state funding. For instance, Fort Worth ISD officials recently commissioned a capacity study to identify areas where potential adjustments could be made to “rightsize” its facilities in light of declining student enrollment, as covered in The Dallas Express. They were fashioned to fit 90,000, yet only 72,783 students were enrolled this fall.
For Plano ISD, reduced state funding means future school closures are likely.
“That means right now, we’re going to have to retire some campuses and that stinks,” Jeri Chambers, Plano ISD board secretary, said during Monday’s meeting, according to NBC 5 DFW.
Whatever decisions Plano ISD officials make next June, they won’t come into effect until the 2025-2026 school term. The district already commissioned a capacity study in May, which will likely help guide the decision-making process. Public comment will also be considered, and several parents are keen to be involved.
“I can understand enrollment’s down, changes need to be made. To be on board with it, I would just like more details of how it’s going to benefit the students of the future,” said Scarlette Cassedy, a district parent whose children are currently in elementary school.
During the meeting, Plano ISD officials provided some insight into why student enrollment has been falling. They pointed out demographic challenges, including decreasing birth rates and growth in districts to the north, such as Prosper ISD. They also suggested that rising housing costs make it difficult for families to move into the district attendance zone.
While some districts like Dallas ISD struggle with student achievement results, this isn’t the case for Plano ISD.
For comparison, only 41% of students scored at grade level on the STAAR exam at Dallas ISD in the 2021-2022 term, and almost 20% of the district’s Class of 2022 did not graduate within four years, according to the latest Texas Education Agency accountability report. Meanwhile, 62% of Plano ISD students scored at grade level on the state test, and 95% of its graduating seniors finished on time.