Sept. 9, 2014
How can that be?
A look at why HPISD continues to grow

By Jim Hitzelberger
Vice President, HPISD Board of Trustees

When the conversation turns to the Highland Park Independent School District's overcrowded schools and the rapid growth rate of our student enrollment, the number one question seems to be, "How can that be? Isn't the community built out?"

I think the answer is elementary, "We are built out, but we are not full." Why? Because the number of children per existing home continues to increase.

HPISD encompasses a small part of the City of Dallas, a majority of the Town of Highland Park and of the City of University Park. Over the past 30 years, HPISD has averaged 1,000 additional students per decade. Based on the latest demographic study performed in 2010 and updated in 2014, our district has approximately 9,487 single-family homes, 975 condominiums and 814 apartment units. This totals approximately 11,276 residences in our school district.

Based upon our enrollment of 7,037 in the school year of 2013-2014, there were 3,894 different addresses for our students. This equates to approximately 34.5 percent of our residences that have school age children in HPISD. In other words, 65.5 percent of residences do not currently have school age children in our district - and the majority of these "empty nest" homes will be getting more students every time a home sells.

Key statistic: Students per single-family home are rising

To look at this same issue from a different perspective, our district averages 0.68 students per single-family home. There are 9,487 single-family homes in HPISD. Other high-performing districts in the surrounding area range from 0.71 to 1.01 students per single-family home. Here are the most recent numbers:
  • HPISD: 0.68 students per single-family home
  • Prosper ISD: 0.71 students per single-family home
  • Frisco ISD: 0.76 students per single-family home
  • Carroll ISD: 0.88 students per single-family home
  • Lovejoy ISD: 1.01 students per single-family home
The ratio of students per home for all these highly regarded districts will continue to increase each year, until most homes in each of these districts are student-oriented. Roughly every time a home sells in HPISD, 0.38 more students move in. That means that for every two students who move out of a house, approximately three students move in.

SMU students moving out of rentals

Apart from our homes becoming more HPISD student-oriented, what else has changed in the last several decades? SMU now requires sophomores to live on campus and has built dorms to accommodate approximately 1,257 additional students. That means students are moving out of rental properties, which are now available to families moving into the district. In the near future, juniors and seniors may also be moving onto campus.

Older empty nesters are migrating to the recently built senior living residences across Northwest Highway and along Greenville Avenue and Lovers Lane where they remain involved in our community. Younger empty nesters are moving just outside our district into the growing Uptown area. Rising housing prices are causing younger parents to wait until their children are school age before moving into the district. As a result, more single-family homes, condos and apartments are available for families with school-age children.

Long-term projections

Looking ahead to the next 10 years, our demographic study indicates that we will grow to an excess of 12,400 residences, due primarily to the increasing heavy demand for multi-family units. But, most importantly, if the ratio of students per single-family home is 0.68 now, and if HPISD follows the trend of other comparable districts, there could, conservatively, be a higher ratio of 0.78 students per single-family home within 10 years, thus adding another 950 students by 2024 - attributable to single-family homes alone. Under a high-growth scenario, HPISD's enrollment could range from 8,400 to 8,890 students within 10 years.

A 15-year projection shows that HPISD could have at least 0.83 students per current single-family home. Adding these higher numbers of students projected for existing homes - and to the current numbers in condos and apartments - then, 8,400 total projected students within 10-15 years.

Then, 20 years forward, the ratio could increase to 0.88 students per single-family home, with another approximately 950 students added by 2034 into existing single-family homes only.

As you are likely aware, HPISD facilities are currently at or beyond their capacity, and the district is required to accommodate and educate every resident-student who appears at its doors. As our school board plans for the future, we are looking at every option possible to accommodate growth while preserving excellence.

I hope this brief discussion of our school district demographics has brought some illumination to the past, present and future here at HPISD. It shows that our best accolade is also our greatest challenge. Families continue to move here because they want to educate their children in an exemplary school district. 

Jim Hitzelberger was elected to the HPISD Board of Trustees in 2009. He currently serves as Board Vice President. This is the first in a series of columns that will be published this school year to keep the community informed. If you have questions about this column or suggestions for future columns, email HPISD Communications Director Helen Williams at .
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