The modest, steady growth in enrollment that New Canaan Public Schools has seen in the past decade is expected to level out for a period, and possibly decline somewhat, according to new projections that district officials cited Monday night.
Overall, the 4,182 students currently enrolled from kindergarten to 12th grade is projected to grow by just two students next academic year, to 4,184, according to Gary Kass, the public schools’ director of human resources.
Longer-term projections from the New England School Development Council, a nonprofit organization based in Marlborough, Mass., call for a decrease of about 90 students overall over the next five years—mostly at the middle school level—and further declines over the subsequent five years, Kass said during a regular meeting of the Board of Education.
“At Saxe Middle School, the demographer is projecting a very slight increase of three students for next year and at the high school a decrease of seven students,” Kass told board members during the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School.
“So what you can see from what our demographer is projecting is a period of amazingly stable enrollment, when you are talking about a difference year-over-year of under 10 students at each location. Again, stable enrollment period for next year. Even as you look out for a longer period and you have the projections for future years—we always know that these enrollment projections are most accurate the closer to the year we are. So for next year, we know we can move forward with our budgeting process and look a fairly stable enrollment for the coming year.”
Here’s a summary of NESDEC projections for next academic year:
NCPS Current Enrollment, 2018-19 Projections
|Level||Current (2017-18)||Projection (2018-19)||Difference||% Change|
The data for this academic year—it’s all available here—also shows that the district is meeting the school board’s class size guidelines of 16 to 20 students at the kindergarten through third grade level, Kass said.
For the next group, fourth-through-eighth grade, the class size guidelines are 20 to 24 students. According to Kass, 98 percent of classes are at or below those guidelines. At New Canaan High School, 92 percent of classes are meeting a guideline of 14 to 25 students, he said.
“So overall, the percentage of classes at or below the guidelines has remained well over 90 percent, on average, and is relatively consistent over the past five years,” Kass said.
Board member Sheri West said “it’s really exciting to see the high percentage meeting the class guidelines, that’s wonderful.”
She asked whether those classes at the high school that failed to meet guidelines were core classes or electives.
NCHS Principal Bill Egan said they tend to be electives generally, and that would include something like AP Math.
Seeking clarification, West asked whether that meant the school would exceed the guideline in lieu of denying an enrollment request.
“Correct,” Egan said. “The teachers generally want to offer all kids who want to take the course, so instead of cutting it off we wouldn’t have another section they will let that bump up.”
Board member asked what the largest-size classes are at NCHS and Egan answered 26 or 27 students. He also noted that one class last year had 32 students.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi noted that the “vast majority” of classes that exceed the guidelines are physical education.
Board member Hazel Hobbs added that PE teachers generally “have more flexibility in curriculum” than others.
Looking at overall projections by grade combinations, Board of Ed Chair Dionna Carlson noted that there’s a “shifting” in enrollment that’s expected to see an increase in the number of students at NCHS over the next five years.
According to the data, the number of students at the high school will rise steadily from 1,319 this year to 1,372 in the 2020-21 academic year.
Carlson asked whether the district has appropriate facilities to accommodate those numbers and whether an attendant shift among NCPS staff will be required.
Luizzi said that after a renovation approximately 10 years ago, the high school can accommodate 1,500 students.
Regarding the staffing, Luizzi said that if needed the district would look at whether shifting personnel from areas where fewer educators may be needed, though that’s a complicated business, given that bumps and drops in student levels rarely fall neatly in a single grade. He said that although teacher certifications go 7th through 12th grades, the district should keep an eye on preserving its successful team model at the middle school.
Here’s a table detailing enrollment projections by grade combinations:
NCPS Enrollment Projections by Grade Combinations