Declining enrollment a long-time Douglas issue

Kurt Hildebrand
Record Courier

Decreasing enrollment has been an ongoing issue for Douglas County schools, especially those at Lake Tahoe, for the entire 21st Century.

According to U.S. Census figures, while the number of residents has increased from 41,259 in 2000 to 49,488 in 2020, the number of those 18 and younger has decreased from 30.7% or around 12,660 to 8,110 in 2020, representing 16.4% of the county’s population.

The district’s enrollment peaked in 1998-99 at 7,322 students as an influx of new residents sent the county’s population soaring.

The district’s enrollment has declined an average of a percent a year since in Carson Valley and 4.4% at Lake Tahoe.

There were 6,342 students in 2010 and 5,420 students as of March.

Douglas County School Superintendent Keith Lewis pointed out the district has been losing students for nearly a quarter of a century.

“The demographics of Douglas County have changed significantly over the past 24 years, and this decline reflects the fact that Douglas County is not an affordable location for young families to relocate,” he said in a memo to school board trustees obtained by The Record-Courier.

He said that the district actually increased by 63 students between January and February and decreased 22 between December and January.

“Overall, (the district) is up 40 students from where we started at the start of the year,” he said. “We are up 132 from what we projected our enrollment to be for staffing.”

The percentage of Douglas residents age 65 and older has nearly doubled from 15.2% in 2000 to 29.7% in the 2020 count.

The average age of a Douglas County resident has increased from 41.7 years old in 2000 to 52 years old in 2020.

A popular haven for retirees, the county’s relatively high home prices and limited workforce housing have reduced the labor pool, according to the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

There were 21,160 workers listed in the labor force for March, according to the state. That’s down 1,588 workers from the 22,748 in March 2021.

“Douglas County’s population is older with declining family household formations, lower school enrollments and smaller household size,” according to the county master plan. “Relatively high housing prices in Douglas County created an economic barrier for many younger working age households, particularly those with children. Consistent with historic trends, Douglas County will continue to see retiree in-migration.”

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