Student Enrollment Forecasting and Boundary Analysis Support Long-Term Facility Planning

Client: The School District of Philadelphia

Location: Pennsylvania

Meet the Client

The School District of Philadelphia (SDP) is the eighth largest in the country and serves the children of the City of Philadelphia. SDP’s portfolio of buildings is massive. It directly operates 217 schools, including 177 neighborhood schools, 20 special admission schools, 12 citywide admission schools, and eight other schools. The SDP also includes 87 charter schools that are independently operated, with 21 of those being Renaissance Charter Schools. The 177 district-run neighborhood schools and 21 Renaissance Charter Schools each have neighborhood catchments that determine attendance eligibility based on students’ neighborhood.


The Challenge

The SDP is experiencing changes in enrollment across the city, and this has created an unbalanced student population and inefficient facility use. Although the number of students in Philadelphia attending publicly funded schools has remained relatively constant over the last five years, there has been a small, but consistent, shift of students from the SDP schools (district-run and Renaissance Charter Schools) to charter schools, including cyber charter schools, nonpublic, and homeschooling. Some schools are under enrolled and others exceed their facility capacity because a significant number of parents choose to send their students to a school outside their school attendance area. To overcome the current uncertainty of future enrollment that was caused in part by the pandemic shifting rates of in-migration to the city and declining birth rates, the SDP began working with FLO and the public engagement firm Bloom Planning in 2019 to create a plan to:

  • Optimize the utilization of buildings to ensure that students have access to a high-quality school close to where they live.
  • Invest limited capital dollars where they are needed most.
  • Create thoughtful transitions for students at elementary and middle grades.
  • Maximize use of municipal and SDP buildings.

Map depicting school age children change 2010-17 for Study Area 3

In addition to student enrollment data provided by SDP, FLO analyzed data from the U.S. Census Bureau, American Community Survey, and numerous other data sources to pin down recent population and housing dynamics and assess their impact on enrollment.

This map shows changes in school-age children population by census tract in West Philadelphia between 2010 and 2017. This is an area that has experienced steady enrollment declines during that period.

The Solution

In 2020 the project was paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it resumed in 2022. The pause allowed SDP to reevaluate the original project and focus on a citywide approach as opposed to just focusing on certain regions in the city. Now that the project has restarted, FLO is leading demographic and geographic analyses to develop 2022–23 through 2031–32 student enrollment forecasts. The forecasts provide analyses of historical and current student enrollment patterns; historical and projected population and housing dynamics in the City of Philadelphia; and the potential impacts of COVID-19 on enrollment.

Close collaboration with the Philadelphia City Planning Commission allows us to capture and incorporate local knowledge and expertise. The forecasts will be used for a detailed review of facilities and future enrollment. After this review, FLO will work with SDP leadership to support numerous community outreach and input sessions that discuss possible solutions to over- or underutilized schools. Using the information from these sessions, FLO will provide the SDP updated enrollment forecasts, and then we will provide ongoing support for enrollment balancing and scenario modeling as needed by SDP.

Contact Us
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Rebecca Laoch

Project Planner

(503) 501-5228

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