The Wake County Public School System (WCPSS), which serves over 160,000 students, is the largest public school district in North Carolina.

To better prepare for school siting needs, WCPSS asked Carolina Demography to project long-range forecasts (10-year) of school enrollment by grade. They also asked us to help them better understand the impact of COVID-19 on these projections.

Statewide, there were 63,000 fewer students enrolled in public schools in fall 2020 compared to the prior year. Enrollment patterns substantially changed for most grades — in particular, there were significantly fewer kindergarteners enrolled compared to prior years.


Before beginning our analysis, we worked alongside WCPSS employees and county stakeholders to produce a methodology that would take COVID-19 into account for school enrollment projections.

We then combined and analyzed a variety of datasets to provide WCPSS and the Wake County government with projections and material for their School Board and County Commissioners. The material was presented in a memo and presentation to key stakeholders to help them better understand trends and projections for their school district.


These top-level forecasts are used as controls for school siting and site purchasing and planning. They help the Wake County school board make decisions about capacity issues and future needs of the school district and take into account the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on school enrollment.



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