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An area known nationally for its booming baby population, Jordan School District is experiencing a strange phenomenon.

The number of students attending year-round elementary schools is down by about 400 kids.Officials had speculated that perhaps the children were on vacation and had just not returned to school yet. Or maybe there was an outbreak of the flu.

But Earl Stuker, director of administrative services for Jordan District, has solved the mystery. Apparently, families moving into the new homes being built in the Jordan School District area have fewer elementary-school-age children.

Stuker had based his estimates of how many elementary-school-age children would be enrolling on predictions in the growing housing market. Last year, 3,000 building permits were issued in the Jordan District area. In 1994, January through June, about 1,500 permits were issued. Based on these figures, Stuker looked into his crystal ball and predicted - conservatively - a student growth rate of 835 students.

It's interesting that even with the unprecedented growth in housing, there are fewer elementary students in the Jordan School District this school year than last.

"The kinds of homes being built are not starter homes but more expensive second or third homes for families. Those moving here have fewer children, and the children that they do have are older - middle and high school students," said Stuker.

For instance, one elementary school on the east side of Sandy had 44 students move out between July 1993 and June 1994. However, only 20 kids moved into the vacated homes with their families. "The families moving into these older homes in the area were not bringing as many children," said Stuker.

In the past 20 years, the district has grown by about 40,000 kids. With approximately 71,300 students, it remains the second-largest school district in Utah.

But district officials must plan for the bulk of the growth to hit the secondary schools. There was a huge enrollment crunch five years ago in the elementary schools. The bulge will continue through the system in the middle and secondary schools.

The last student enrollment count was taken Tuesday, when the fourth track of the year-round elementary school students reported to school.

Traditional school begins Aug. 29, but Stuker expects that the same trend that has developed in the year-round schools will continue this fall.

To teachers, this could mean some reassignments but will not result in layoffs, Stuker said.

"It's always traumatic when teachers have already set up their classrooms and settled into a particular school to ask them to relocate. But we may need to do that," Stuker said.