Answer Man: Is a Coronavirus baby boom on the way? Are schools ready? – Citizen Times

A reader wants to know if local schools, and North Carolina, should expect a baby boom because of the current pandemic quarantine orders and people spending more time at home.(Photo: Getty Images)

Todays batch of burning questions, my smart-aleck answers and the real deal:

Question: What are the local school systems going to do in five or six years with all the new babies weve got coming from this whole coronavirus quarantine? What will happen in Buncombe County and Asheville City Schools if they get hit with a big wave of new students? What are they projecting as far as increased numbers of students?

My answer: Wait a sec you mean there's more going on inpeople's homes during quarantine than just overeating and excessive alcohol consumption? Man, I always miss out on the fun.

Real answer: I reached out to the North Carolina State Demographer, Mike Cline, on this one, and he had a fun answer, but let's go to the local school systems first, as that was the reader's main concern. First up is Buncombe County Schools spokeswoman Stacia Harris.

"Multiple BCS departments collaborate to project student membership and staffing needs based on decades of monitoring cohort rates at each school," Harris said via email. "Essentially, we analyze what percentage of kids move from grade to grade at each school and use that information to project what our membership will be each year."

This is a flexible system, should the boom arrive.

Local school systems say they're ready, should a surge of newborns come in 2021.(Photo: thinkstock)

"There are many ways we can address shifts in enrollment throughout our districts," Harris said. "Our process is effective and streamlined, and we'll be ready for the Class of 2039 no matter the size of the cohort."

Ashley-Michelle Thublin, spokeswoman for the Asheville City Schools, handled the question for them by reaching out to Assistant Superintendent Shane Cassida.

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"The enrollment committee is a standing committee that meets throughout the school year," Cassida said via email. "We are constantly looking at one, three, five and 10 years down the road."

ACS looks at cohort groups of student starting at age 3.

"We respond to the changes of trends in our budget and teacher allotment process six months ahead of the beginning of school," Cassida said. "Should there be a baby boom five to six years from now, we will be well prepared."

The schools can probably stand down, according to the state demographer, Cline.

"Despite all the jokes going around the internet, there is not likely to be a baby boom as a result of the pandemic," Cline said via email. "People delay major decisions in the midst of uncertainty especially regarding child birth until some level of certainty returns.While we have not experienced a pandemic like this in over a century, we have experienced many periods of economic distress and during those periods we saw declines in fertility."

The Great Recession of 2008-09 provides a good example, as it created a lot of distress.

Birth rates actually tend to dip during times of uncertainty, including recessions.(Photo: ozgurdonmaz, Getty Images/iStockphoto)

"In Buncombe County, fertility declined from its most recent peak of almost 63 births per 1,000 women age 15-44 in 2007 just prior to the Great Recession to about 48 births per 1,000 by 2017," Cline said. "The Great Recession likely influenced the decisions of younger folks over the last decade delaying the age at which they settled down and had children (declines in teenage pregnancy also contributed to these declines)."

Extrapolating to more recent times, a baby boom seems improbable.

"Due to these trends, the population projections our office prepared prior to the pandemic show slight declines in the number of 5-year-olds through 2023, with slight increases on a yearly basis thereafter," Cline said. "These latter increases have more to do with the fact that we expect growth in the number of people in the prime childbearing ages, even as fertility rates stabilize at lower levels."

More: Asheville population growth slumping as surrounding areas pick up pace

Some more esoteric factors are at play, too.

"Finally, while there is some assumption that everyone is 'enjoying'their time locked up with their significant other there are many relationships that may already be strained," Cline said. "Even if their relationships are not strained going into lock-down, child-rearing and other responsibilities might limit romance for a while."

This was my favorite part of Cline's email, though:

"If 'certain activities'do occur, we would not necessarily expect significant increases in births because various forms of birth control methods are widely practiced in the United States," he said. "All that said, I continue to monitor trends in all aspects of population change including births, deaths, and migration and we will adjust our future population projections based upon the latest trends."

Cline also provide a link to an interesting read in ScienceNews.org titled, "Births in the United States have dropped to a 34-year low." Posted May 20, the articles states:

"For the fifth year in a row, the number of babies born in the United States has declined. Its the lowest number of births just under 3.75 million in 2019, gleaned from birth certificate data since 1985, according to the report published online May 20 from the National Center for Health Statistics. Since 2014, that number has been dropping 1 percent on average per year."

AuthorAimee Cunningham notes the country has had "a general downward trend in births since the Great Recession, which lasted from 2007-09.

"In periods of economic uncertainty, births tend to drop, says family demographer Karen Benjamin Guzzo of Bowling Green State University in Ohio," Cunningham writes. "But rather than rebounding after the recession ended, as would be expected, births have continued to fall. Its an indication that not everyones prospects improved as the economy recovered, she says."

So with the current economic uncertainty, the COVID-19 pandemic still making its way around the globe, and young people being worried about all manner of life issues from student debt to a bad job market, don't look for a wave of babies.

In other news, if you read my column regularly, you know we are having a baby geese boom locally. Glad to see that, although I'm sure geese elementary school principals are worried...

This is the opinion of John Boyle. To submit a question, contact him at 232-5847 or jboyle@citizen-times.com

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Answer Man: Is a Coronavirus baby boom on the way? Are schools ready? - Citizen Times

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