Madison schools expect enrollment drop while Middleton, Sun Prairie and Verona project increases

MADISON, Wis. — The Madison Metropolitan School District is projecting a drop in enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year, but smaller, surrounding school districts are seeing more students enroll as their communities grow.

“The number of students that we had born in the Madison and Fitchburg areas went down by say about 300 students, and what that will mean is about 90 fewer students for Madison schools in Kindergarten next year,” said Andrew Statz, MMSD’s Executive Director of research accountability and data use.

Statz said this trend of fewer births in the area is driving the projected net reduction of 51 students across all grades next year.

Spread across the city’s 53 schools, that might not cause a big impact, but it’s contributing to the district’s $3 million reduction, which could require staff cuts.

“Knowing that this reduction (in students) is particularly going to hit kindergarten, we have to take a look at class size in those earlier grades and see what is the most practical approach for serving those students,” said Statz.

While Madison prepares for fewer students, nearby districts are expecting more students.

Verona Area School District is projecting an enrollment increase of 55 students. Housing developments in both Verona and Fitchburg have contributed to the district’s growth.

A spokesperson for the district said the new high school and lift and shift of six schools will be ready for the Fall 2020 semester.

The Sun Prairie Area School District is projecting an enrollment growth of 79 students in the 2020-2021 school year.

And the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District is expecting to gain at least 100 students, which is a 1.4 percent increase from this year.

Perry Hibner, the Middleton-Cross Plains Area School District’s Director of Communications, said the district has seen a 1-3 percent increase each year over the last decade.

He said this has been driven by new developments and homes being sold to young families.

Statz said since Madison is so much larger, it doesn’t feel the impact of development as much as these smaller districts do.

“For them, they have a lot of new residential development that can have an impact, that’s all recent and still coming online, and also fewer schools so they’re the ones that are more aggressive in building new school locations,” said Statz.

Despite seeing a trend of decreased enrollment in Madison over the last few years, Statz said this could change as the economy affects whether people buy houses or have kids. He said over the next 20 years, MMSD is expected to gain 1,600 students because of development on the far west side.

This current drop in enrollment, along with the loss of some aid from the state, is part of the reason MMSD is pursuing a referendum in November.