Based on the number of babies born to New Canaan families last year, the public schools are poised in the 2026-27 academic year to welcome a kindergarten class larger than the district’s facilities currently can handle, officials say.
New Canaan’s 201 known “live births” in 2021, added to the town’s regular move-ins of young families coming for the outstanding public schools, is projected to result in a kindergarten class of 397 students five years later, officials said at the Board of Education’s regular meeting last week.
“We could not accommodate those students given the facilities we currently have,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Bryan Luizzi said during the Nov. 7 meeting, held in the Wagner Room at New Canaan High School. “It’s just too many more students than our schools could handle. So one of our questions, as we begin to look at this deeper, is: Is that going to be a one-year pandemic kind of anomaly with more children and people moving to town, or is it going to be consistent over that with over 300 students in kindergarten? It’s the kind of thing you don’t know until you know, until you’re actually in that year. But those predictions based on the births seem pretty reliable, pretty stable.”
The discussion emerged following a presentation by Darlene Pianka, the district’s human resources director. The town’s demographer, the Marlborough-Mass.-based New England School Development Council or ‘NESDEC,’ is projecting “stable enrollment” for the next three years, with a modest decrease, from 4,100 to 4,068 total students, from the current academic year to the next one, Pianka reported.
“The factors that are now at work in considering the greatest effect upon future enrolments are the resumption of in-migration … and the increase in the number of known births,” she said. “Both of those have seen somewhat of an increase and we’re all aware of the in-migration during the pandemic and in looking at live births in the recent past, those have increased, as well. So we’re going to need to look at that and determine what needs there might be for the school district moving forward.”
Luizzi noted that projected 397-student 2026-27 kindergarten class “is the largest class that we’ve had coming into kindergarten.”
“And the fact that it’s based on known births, not estimated births, has got us starting to really think,” he said. Because the projections call for that class, with move-ins, to grow to 423 students in first grade, then 445, 453, 466 and eventually 500 students in the grade, Luizzi said.
“And I don’t believe we’ve ever had 500 students in a grade,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve been close to that, certainly in my knowledge and experience.”
Board of Ed members asked what a build-out at public schools would look like (that blueprint doesn’t exist yet), whether the effects of rising birth rates in public schools enrollment is unique to New Canaan (no, though New Canaan also has had held its enrollment baseline more steadily than other towns), what is the capacity at the pre-K program run out of West School (the district has tried to hold it at 50 to 55 students tops), whether the district is sharing the information about live birth and enrollment trends with local preschools (New Canaan kindergarteners generally come from 25 to 30 preschools, so it’s well beyond the local preschools) and how many classrooms and special spaces would be needed at each elementary school down the road (it’s unclear just which elementary schools the future kindergartners would attend).
Board of Education member Hugo Alves asked if officials know whether those moving into the expanding Canaan Parish complex at Route 123 and Lakeview Avenue are single people or those with children.
Luizzi noted in response that the NESDEC projections do not account for housing developments that do not yet exist.
“Any proposed developments that are not online yet, but could be in three years, are not baked in,” he said, adding that the number of enrolled students could only rise as a result of more housing added.
During her presentation, Pianka said that total enrollment in New Canaan Public Schools, as of Oct. 1, was up to 4,163 including the pre-K program and students placed out-of-district, up 30 from last academic year. NCPS continues to do very well with respect to meeting its class-size guidelines, she said, and the district’s certified staff is up 8.9 full-time equivalents or FTEs year-over-year. A graphic that Pianka included in her presentation showed an 8.8 FTE increase in special education, from 76 to 84.8.