Kaid Benfield Archive


Economic crisis boosting school enrollments in inner suburbs, not sprawl

Kaid Benfield

Posted October 13, 2008 at 1:46PM

, , , , , , , ,


Further evidence that sprawling outer suburbs are hurt more in the current economy (let's just go ahead and call it a recession, shall we?) than smarter locations:

Last Friday's Washington Post took a look at recent trends in public school enrollment patterns in the DC metro area.  Schools in inner suburban areas have seen a surge of new students, some switching over from private schools, but others a result of fewer families moving away to more distant suburbs (and bigger homes).

TC Williams HS, Alexandria, VA (by: Moseley Architects)As Margaret Byess, executive director of financial services for Alexandria schools put it, "In difficult economic times, people tend to stay put."

According to Stephen S. Fuller, directory of the Center for Regional Analysis at George Mason University, the "trade-up market" for houses has declined, adding that "families are continuing to move into neighborhoods near the city. The region continues to generate jobs, and young professionals with children tend to move closer in at first, as do many new immigrants drawn to rental apartments."

Schools in outer suburban areas are still growing, but at lower rates compared with recent years. Inner suburban schools, on the other hand, are bracing for an unexpected financial strain on already limited resources.

In particular, outside of DC, suburban Montgomery County, Maryland, and Fairfax County, Virginia, have seen school enrollment gains of one percent and two percent, respectively.  Farther out in Virginia from the city, Loudoun County has seen enrollment go down.  But the inner suburbs of Arlington and Alexandria have seen increases of four and a half and six percent, respectively.

Thanks to my colleague Rachel Sohmer for help on this one.