Thousands of volunteers took to Davis County streets Wednesday to begin counting an estimated 179,000 residents as part of a school census.

The census, which is expected to last through Dec. 12, will help determine how the school district will handle school overcrowding and a projected population boom. Current data show that Davis schools will add more than 8,000 students by 1996 or 1997."It will give us data for some good long-range planning," Richard Kendell, Davis School District superintendent, said.

District officials are considering how to deal with overcrowding and are studying such options as redrawing school boundaries, putting more elementary schools on extended-day schedules and creating magnet schools. The census, which officials hope will more accurately gauge the number of children who will enter the school system in the next 10 years, will be an integral part of making decisions about such proposals.

Kendell said the district could not wait until federal 1990 Census data was available to make decisions.

"The growth is with us now. This seemed like the only window of opportunity," he said, noting that additional Layton elementary schools may be required to use an extended-day program or even pilot a year-round program next year.

Census-takers, most of them local PTA volunteers, are going door-to-door asking 16 questions about status of housing, number of children, employment, handicapped children, second language used in the home, and race. Answering the census is expected to take about 20 minutes. Most of the volunteers will take the census in their own neighborhoods.

Kendell said the information will be kept strictly confidential, although aggregate data will be made available to city and county planners. Those who do not wish to answer certain questions may refuse. However, Kendell hopes everyone will cooperate to help provide the most complete information.

The trained volunteers will take data on a form that will be scanned by a centralized computer. The data will then be fed into a highly versatile software system.

The district expects to save between $65,000 and $75,000 using the volunteers. Pollster Dan Jones is assisting with the census operation.

In addition to the door-to-door canvass, the school plans to gather data from city and county officials about new building permits, sewer hookups and planned development.