The creation of a Lockwood high school could blunt an expected enrollment increase in Billings high schools.
School District 2 trustees reviewed updated enrollment projections that reflect the departure of Lockwood students beginning in 2020. Lockwood, which operates a K-8 district, voted to expand to K-12 and build a high school funded by a $49.9 million bond in May.
Lockwood had 408 students enrolled in Billings high schools in the district's last count.
Senior, Skyview and West high schools are expected to see a combined increase of about 150 students next school year and about 30 the year after that, but enrollment is expected to fall by about 100 students for the 2020-2021 school year.
Students are expected to be grandfathered into the new Lockwood high school beginning that year, with only younger students enrolling there for the first year.
The next school year SD2 is actually expected to increase 36 students.
That the departure of Lockwood students doesn't lead to a larger drop illustrates the expected strength of a bubble of large enrollment classes moving into Billings high schools over the next several years.
The projections were created by Jerome McKibben, a demographer who works with Cropper GIS, the company SD2 contracted for its redistricting process in 2016.
The absence of Lockwood students becomes more stark looking 10 years out. A series of modest estimated enrollment decreases toward the end of that period are expected to bring enrollment to 5,378 high school students — about the same as enrollment from this school year.
"It looks like it's about a net zero with the loss of the Lockwood students," said SD2 administrator Lew Anderson, who previously managed the district's elementary bond. "(McKibben) told me that was a very conservative estimate."
The impacts across schools vary. West is expected to grow like clockwork, adding almost 300 students to hit about 2,100 for the 2022-2023 school year, then dip by about a combined 50 students during the next five years.
Senior is expected to grow slightly next year before an early departure of Lockwood students from redistricting that zoned Lockwood students to Skyview. From a peak of about 1,950 students next year, enrollment is expected to steadily slide to about 1,600 in 10 years.
Skyview is more of a roller coaster; an influx of redistricted Lockwood students will add about 100 students each of the next two years, then the school is expected to lose about 80 students when the Lockwood high school begins operating. Enrollment is expected to slip to about 1,660 students by 2025-2026 before rebounding to about 1,740 two years later.
It's unclear how the new projections will affect the possibility of a high school bond in Billings. Trustees and school district officials have steadily built toward the idea of a bond that would extensively remodel the Career Center and likely renovate each primary high school as well.
Trustees officially declared the seat previously held by Joe Oravecz vacant on Monday. Oravecz, formerly an administrator at MSUB, took a job with a college in Massachusetts.
The board will appoint Oravecz's successor. Applicants have until July 16 to put in for the position. Trustees will then set a date for interviews and a decision.
The seat represents a district encompassing much of Billings' West End.
Montana law requires school boards to appoint a new trustee for open spots within 60 days of the board declaring the position vacant. If trustees don't appoint someone in that period, the county school superintendent appoints a new trustee. The appointed trustee serves until the next school election.
Another position will open soon when Lockwood trustee Gordon Klasna leaves the board. With the creation of a high school district, Lockwood no longer will have a representative on SD2's board. Board chairwoman Greta Besch Moen said trustees would declare the seat vacant in June or July.