New projections may show another spike in Decatur schools enrollment

An increase in the number of apartments, town homes and condos getting built or scheduled to get built in Decatur over the next few years, could spark another increase in city schools enrollment. AJC file photo

caption arrowCaption
An increase in the number of apartments, town homes and condos getting built or scheduled to get built in Decatur over the next few years, could spark another increase in city schools enrollment. AJC file photo

City Schools of Decatur is planning another round of enrollment projections analyzing K-12 enrollment and school capacity needs over the next five years. It should get completed in the next month.

Although enrollment appears to be leveling off for now, Superintendent David Dude said recently this may only prove a brief respite.

The current K-12 enrollment, as of this month, is 5874, an increase of 140 over last October. Although hardly a middling addition in a district of only nine K-12 schools, it’s still the smallest increase from one year to the next in at least 13 years.

Last year’s projections show enrollment surpassing 6,000 by the 2022-23 school year, reaching a peak of 6,077 by 2023-24 before again slipping below 6,000 in 2026-27.

But Dude said the new projections, likely to get reviewed during the December 10 meeting, could render last year’s numbers obsolete.

“ I think,” said Dude, “we’ve pushed the limits, or about pushed the limits on [tearing down small single-family homes and replacing them with larger ones]. The [primary] way you can add significant residential units in the city [will be] apartment complexes, because there aren’t large spaces anymore. So yes, there could be another spurt of growth.”

Dude said the new projections will include “a lot more data about developments” that were unavailable this time last year.

According to figures provided by CSD and updated by the city’s planning department, there are 1,207 apartments, condos and townhomes that came online in roughly the last five years. These have already figured into CSD projections and enrollment studies.

But what gets assimilated into upcoming projections include 595 apartments/town homes/condos currently proposed or in the planning stages, and another 897 apartments/condos/town homes currently under construction.

According to Dude and Heidi Whatley, CSD’s Research and Analytics Director, the district gets roughly one student per two two-bedroom apartments, a number that’s held true for many years, Whatley said. So, for instance, the Cousins development (on the old Callaway Building site), now called Amli Decatur, will have 105 two-bedrooms, meaning it projects to adding 52 or 53 students.

“[Amil] will be interesting to watch,” Dude said. “It’s immediately adjacent to the high school. You might be tempted to move there if you have kids of high school or even middle school age. You can literally walk out the door and be at school.”