Despite a high number of move-ins in this strong local real estate market, enrollment projections for New Canaan Public Schools call for an overall slight decline next academic year, district officials say.
As of June 18, the district had 4,070 students enrolled in kindergarten through 12th grade, and is projected to reach 4,095, according to data made public at last week’s Board of Education meeting. The figures compare to 4,176 students enrolled K-12 in the school year that just ended, Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jill Correnty said during the June 21 Board of Ed meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School.
District officials said that by the time the 2021-2022 starts, the enrollment figures could end up rising, for a number of reasons. Many of the move-ins likely not have enrolled their children yet, Correnty said, and the figures do not include those who are “pre-registered” or in the process of finalizing residency and other documentation for the district.
“I think that we are just going to have to watch the new complexes that are going in and tracking those numbers and working with the real estate [professionals], as they know of families moving in, as well, so that we can try to plan proactively,” Correnty said.
She added that the enrollment numbers “are early for us” because those who are withdrawing from the district are represented in greater numbers than those who will end up signing up.
“This is our busy time,” Correnty said. “The months of July and August it really picks up for us.”
The overall projected enrollment decline also reflects the fact that the NCHS class of 2021, at 385 students, was the largest in history, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said. Board of Ed members also said that many of the new young families in New Canaan may have children who are not yet preschool age.
Correnty, who presented the projections data (available here) from Marlborough, Mass.-based New England School Development Council or ‘NESDEC,’ since NCPS Director of Human Resources Darlene Pianka was absent, said district officials are watching the kindergarten enrollments most closely. The number of kids registered for kindergarten is rising steadily, from 239 on April 29 to 245 in May and 254 most recently, she said.
“As you look across at each of the buildings, we’re watching certainly South and East very closely,” Correnty said. “This is a time when we do have a lot of students who are new to the district and begin to register. So we start to meet biweekly with elementary principals to really track the numbers and watch the sections and watch the sizes of classes and determine if we need to add another section at any grade level.”
Board of Ed members asked how close enrollment in the current academic year ended up being to projections (pretty close), whether district officials have had a chance yet to consult with real estate professionals regarding new families moving in (not yet) and whether the reason for declines in the number of students projected at NCHS is due to move-outs or private school enrollments (likely the former though that data hasn’t been compiled yet from exit surveys).
Board of Ed member Sheri West asked whether the district might do “additional outreach” to new families beyond what normally is done, “because as we emerge from the pandemic there is a lot of noise.”
West said the numbers were “hard to believe given what we all know is happening with the real estate in our town.”
“This data actually surprises me quite a bit, just given the pandemic real estate boom,” she said. “I mean we have all been watching the real estate headlines and numbers in New Canaan. And I know, anecdotally, on my street, I would say we have turned over 10 houses where there were no kids, and now they all have young kids. So this data, actually, it shocks me.”