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Plano ISD leaders call attention to low enrollment



PLANO, TX – Plano ISD leaders called attention to the district’s declining enrollment during the city’s Comprehensive Plan Review meeting. The 16-person committee focuses on important corners of the city’s Plano Tomorrow plan and creates policy recommendations for City Council.

During the Tuesday night meeting, Plano ISD Superintendent Sara Bonser and Chief Financial Officer Randy McDowell pointed to a several key elements behind the district’s declining enrollment. Bonser said she planned to raise the issue sooner.

“Our plans were that we would have come earlier and had this conversation with you, but as we all know when the COVID-19 crisis hit; we went full speed into a whole different opportunity to learn for change and education,” Bonser said.

McDowell said the low enrollment trend was spotted five years ago.

“Some of that is the number of houses we’re building is slowing down. Plano grew really fast and we’re getting closer to being built out.”

While there are single- and multifamily houses in production, McDowell said an increase in the amount of people moving in is not expected for a while. “We’re seeing more of an aging population,” McDowell said.

The district said Plano public schools usually see around 4,000 students graduate from high schools, but only 3,500 to 3,600 enroll in kindergarten. “It’s not necessarily that people are just leaving PISD; it’s more of an effect of lower birth rate, less students feeding in on the lower end,” McDowell said.

While the district grapples with the data, Bonser said school closures triggered an influx of students.

“You would be surprised, between the day we closed and the end of April, we enrolled 258 new students in the district in the first month of the closure,” she said.

“And it was because the other school districts weren’t providing remote instruction so they all came to us.”

Bonser said the bottom line for the review committee is to recognize the district’s need for more enrollment.

“If I had a wish, it would be that enrollment isn’t declining. We want more kids. We have building space, we have a great school system,” she said.

Bonser joked about putting a billboard out advertising the need for more students to enroll. “We want your kids.”

McDowell also noted the arrival of public and charter schools in Plano as reasons for decreasing enrollment. There are currently more than 20 private schools operating in the area.