Enrollment in New Canaan Public Schools is projected to decrease by 81 students next year, according to data released this week.
The projected decline for the 2021-22 school year—from 4,176 to 4,095 students in kindergarten through twelfth grade—reflects decreases at all levels, according to Darlene Pianka, the district’s human resources director.
The elementary schools are projected to see 34 fewer students overall next academic year, Pianka told members of the Board of Education during their regular meeting Monday. Citing projects from Marlborough, Mass.-based New England School Development Council or ‘NESDEC,’ she said Saxe Middle School is expected to decline by 15 students and New Canaan High School by 32.
“Generally speaking, the trend that is indicated by our demographers is that we are in a period of stable but slightly decreasing enrollment in the middle and the elementary schools,” Pianka said during the meeting, held in the Wagner Room at NCHS as well as via videoconference.
In a memo sent to the Board of Ed prior to her presentation, Pianka said, “If we look at projections a few years out we might describe our enrollment as on a slow steady decrease from 4,176 students this year, decreasing to 4,101 students in the 2022-23 school year, a projected decrease of 75 net students, followed by future decreases in enrollment.”
Current enrollment stands at 4,234 students including pre-K students and those placed out-of-district—up 10 from last year’s total, Pianka said.
The data comes as the Board of Ed and municipal departments await guidance from the Board of Finance on spending requests for next fiscal year. The finance board is expected to deliver that guidance this month.
NESDEC’s enrollment projection for the current academic year came with 11 students of the actual K-12 total—4,165 projected versus 4,176 actual.
Board of Ed member Sheri West asked whether NESDEC’s projection for next year considered “this unprecedented event with the pandemic and the real estate boom, truly, in New Canaan.”
Pianka said the figures do take move-ins into account, and that “a fair amount of students” came to NCPS from private schools.
“But the larger amount was from the state of New York,” Pianka said. “So of the about 30% of the total increase, of that 30%, close to 60% of those students were from New York. And you know I think that’s very telling. I’m clearly not a real estate agent but I am aware of the general trends and that definitely what we are hearing about and reading about has proven to be true in New Canaan, in terms of the fact that we have had a lot of students move in unexpectedly, probably based on the pandemic. And they have continued trickling in.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi noted that demographers do not factor in new housing construction that is underway when projecting future move-ins, because there have been times in the past when such projects go unfinished.
Pianka in her presentation also reviewed district staffing and class sizes. This year, the percentage of classes in the district that are at or below guidelines in terms of size “is very high,” she said.
“Overall, the percentage of classes at or below guidelines has remained well above 90% on average and is relatively consistent over the past five years,” Pianka said.
Overall for the current school year, the number of certified staff is up 6.65 full-time equivalents from the prior academic year. While the elementary schools are down .7 FTEs among them, Saxe is up three FTEs in areas such as Language Arts and World Languages—as well as two Special Education FTEs—while NCHS is up 2.35 FTEs in areas such as English, Social Studies and Math, Pianka said.