For decades, young people have come to Virginia’s urban areas to go to university or work, often moving out again when their children require more space or education. But, since the mid 2000s, a demographic change has slowed the conveyor belt of movement in and out of cities. More young families are staying in Virginia’s urban areas to raise their children and enroll them in local schools, fueling the strongest population growth many of Virginia’s urban areas have experienced since the 1950s.
Elementary schools have been among the first to feel the impact of the change in growth trends. Most rural and suburban elementary schools have too much classroom space because fewer families have moved to their divisions. At the same time, many urban school divisions, after decades of shuttering schools, are reassessing their capital improvement plans so they have enough space for the increases in enrollment.
Most urban school divisions in Virginia have high retention rates after first grade. If parents are reluctant to move once their children have started school, then most urban school divisions will expect their enrollment to continue to rise as elementary school students progress through the grades. An increase in families staying in urban areas would mean that local governments will have a lot more to plan for than just classroom space.