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New Projection Shows School Enrollment To Decrease



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New Projection Shows School Enrollment To Decrease

By Eliza Hallabeck

As presented to the Board of Education during its meeting on Tuesday, August 17, and projected by Hyung Chung of H.C. Planning Consultants, based out of Orange, the total kindergarten through twelfth grade enrollment in Newtown could decrease by 26.1 percent over the next ten years.

During the meeting the school board also discussed the Newtown High School expansion and renovation project being off schedule by about one to two months and met the new assistant principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School.

Dr Chung explained to the school board during his presentation that home sales, births, housing net gain, and Newtown's unemployment rate are all used to factor the future projected school enrollment.

“The magnitude of declines for the leading indicators has been unprecedented: births declined from 372 births in 1997 to 192 births in 2009, a decrease of 180 births or 48 percent in 11 years; the annual housing net gain plummeted from 230 units in 1998 to a mere 4 units in 2009, a decline of 226 units or 98 percent in ten years; and the annual home sales of single family units were down from 644 units in 1998 to 216 units in 2009, a reduction of 218 units or 67 percent in ten years,” Dr Chung's report prepared for the school board reads. “In contrast, the percent of Newtown resident (kindergarten through 12th grade students) in nonpublic schools increased from 9.4 percent in 1998 to 11.4 percent in 2009.”

Using the same factors Dr Chung said he chose the middle projection of three— a high, medium, and low,— numbers to determine future enrollment. He said choosing the middle projection offered the least amount of room for error.

In the first five years of Dr Chung's project, according the report, kindergarten through fourth grade enrollment will decrease by 23.4 percent, and in the second five year projection will continue to decrease slowly by 10.8 percent.

Intermediate enrollment is projected to decrease by 14.4 percent in the first five years, and by 26.4 percent over the second five years.

Middle school enrollment is projected to decrease by 4.1 percent in the first five years, and by 23.2 percent in the second five years of the study.

High school enrollment projects show a decrease of .2 percent in the first five years of the study, and a 14.2 percent decrease in the following five years of the study.

“All in all, total (kindergarten through 12th grade) enrollments in Newtown public schools are forecast to decrease by 26.1 percent (-1,406 students) over the next ten years,” the study reads.

The full study, according to the school district, should become available online, at www.newtown.k12.ct.us, by the start of next week.

Following the school board meeting, Board of Education Chair William Hart said the accuracy of school enrollment projections becomes less exact the further out the study is estimated.

“We have to make sure we take it with the appropriate grain of salt,” said Mr Hart on Wednesday, August 18.

At the start of the meeting the school board voted 4 to 3 to place Independent Party of Newtown member William Hart into the open position of chair, vacated by Lillian Bittman due to family obligations. See related story in this week's Newtown Bee to read further on the topic.

Superintendent of Schools Janet Robinson also spoke at the start of the meeting, and had a challenge for the community.

During her Superintendent Report Dr Robinson explained Newtown High School, Newtown Middle School, Reed Intermediate School, and Sandy Hook Elementary School, as the largest elementary school in town, have been added to the list of possible schools to earn the Kohl's Cares for Kids contest, which awards $500,000 to each of the 20 top schools in a voting contest. Each voter is allowed to vote up to five times for a school in the contest.

“I challenge everyone to get their friends, parents, relations,” said Dr Robinson, “… to vote.”

More about the program will become available online, and board member Lillian Bittman suggested adding a Facebook page for the program, to help it “go viral with the students.”

Also during the board meeting, former Newtown Middle School Language Arts teacher Jennifer Sinal, who also directed musicals at the school during her time there, was announced as the new assistant principal for Sandy Hook School by new Princial Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung.

“I couldn't have asked for more,” said Ms Sinal. “I am very grateful.”

Both Mr Hart and board member David Nanavaty said their daughters had been Ms Sinal's students when in eighth grade.

“I was very happy to read Jenn was moving on,” he said, “although, I don't know how we will replace her at NMS.”

NHS Principal Charles Dumais also gave an update on the NHS expansion and renovation project during the school board meeting. He said the expansion portion of the project will not be completed by the expected September 1 date, and is expected to be pushed to either October or November.

Mr Dumais said transitioning into the building will be done as seamlessly as possible for the students, and for teachers the most frustrating part will be unpacking, repacking, and unpacking again during the school year.

One major obstacle, he said, is Stair 4, which was slated to expand in the expansion process. Mr Dumais said both the state fire marshal and the town fire marshal have inspected the site, and say if the stairwell is not finished by September 1, students cannot enter the building.

Board member Kathy Fetchick broached the topic of the stairwell not being completed in time for school to start. Mr Dumais answered, in that event, the school year would be pushed back for only Newtown High School students.

“The timeline is extremely tight for Stair 4,” he said.

In other news, the driveway work is underway, and Mr Dumais said parking should be available by the start of the school year.

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