Student population growth in the Killeen Independent School District is predicted to continue increasing by an annual rate of 1 percent in the coming years.
That projected growth was cited by Superintendent John Craft as a major factor in proposing a bond issue that would affect property taxpayers and is under consideration by the KISD board of trustees.
At Thursday’s bond steering committee meeting, Craft told committee members that KISD’s enrollment this school year peaked last week at 44,319. The district predicts student growth will total 49,445 by the 2028-2029 school year.
Craft said the district needs to build new elementary and middle schools, and a high school in the next 10 years to alleviate current overcrowding in the district’s schools caused by the growth. The high school alone is estimated to cost $173 million, according to the district’s Strategic Facility Plan.
All projects under consideration for the KISD bond issue total about $500 million.
Jeff Heckathorn is KISD’s public education information management system coordinator and district demographer. As part of his job, he has calculated the 1 percent student growth figure by looking at increases in enrollment over the past three years.
Heckathorn said in an email those numbers are indicative of the growth that will be seen in the district in the years ahead, assuming there are no unforeseen major changes. He watches fluctuations in enrollment numbers, the housing market and other variables that might impact enrollment potential.
When an in-person interview was sought with Heckathorn, the KISD response was, “He appreciates the request but he respectfully declines to be interviewed.”
The Killeen Daily Herald has submitted a public information request seeking documents related to Heckathorn’s student population growth calculations, because they are vital to a bond issue that would involve local taxpayers.
Other sources provided some insight into calculating student population growth in the region.
The Copperas Cove Independent School District relies on historical data as one aspect of student growth population calculations, according to Rick Kirkpatrick, CCISD deputy superintendent of curriculum and instruction. Information from the city of Copperas Cove and Fort Hood, and other data reflecting major shifts in enrollment provide indicators used to compile reasonably accurate numbers.
“Currently, CCISD is growing at a very slow rate,” Kirkpatrick said. “However, new housing developments are expected to increase enrollment in the near future, especially on the north end of the city.”
CCISD’s student population growth rate is about 1 percent, Kirkpatrick said.
Christopher J. Haug, chief of media relations for III Corps and Fort Hood Public Affairs, shared information on Fort Hood.
“Fort Hood is not projected to receive more troops at this time,” Haug said. “There are more than 8,300 soldiers currently deployed who will return to the area over time. This may give the impression that Fort Hood’s population is fluctuating.”
More than 50,000 family members of the 36,500 soldiers assigned to Fort Hood live on or near the post, according to Haug.
School-age children in families living at Fort Hood would attend KISD schools. Those residing off-post in Killeen or Harker Heights would also attend district schools.
The city of Killeen itself would be a potential source of data for projecting growth in KISD.
Hilary Shine, city spokeswoman, described how Killeen estimates the city’s growth. “We typically use Census estimates.”
Organizations such as the Killeen Economic Development Corporation offer other growth estimates for the area.
The “Killeen 2017 Pop-Facts Executive Summary” on the KEDC website shows the Killeen population grew 13.3 percent from 127,921 in 2010 to 144,930 in 2017. That growth is projected to continue at a rate of 7.4 percent over the next five years.
The Economic Development Corporation uses its data to attract potential employers to the area.
The Central Texas Home Builders Association acquires its growth figures from the National Association of Home Builders, according to Teri Stermer of the Central Texas Home Builders Association. The national association compiles a variety of calculations by area, including housing starts, permits issued, employment statistics and new home sales. Those figures help project how many new homes may need to be constructed in the city to accommodate an influx of new residents.
The Texas Education Agency also calculates district growth across the state.
TEA estimates are based on the annual snapshot of attendance, this year taken on the last Friday of October, according to DeEtta Culbertson, TEA spokeswoman.
School districts must turn in their attendance data to the TEA by Dec. 7, Culbertson said. They have until January, however, to refine the data.
The numbers used by the TEA are called the district’s average daily attendance figure.
The TEA growth projections for KISD mirror the 1 percent figure through 2019, though TEA student population numbers differ from KISD’s enrollment figures.
Those differences, according to Culbertson, could be because that many students enrolled in the district might be absent from school on the day the data is collected.