School district expects K-5 enrollment drop

With a draft budget plan for the 2019-20 school year in the works, the school board on Jan. 14 heard enrollment trends and considered preliminary staffing requests.

Historically, enrollment in Scarsdale has been fairly stable over the last 10 years, but it has started to decline, specifically in the elementary schools. In 2018-19, enrollment declined to 2,070, a loss of 110 students from the 2009-10 enrollment of 2,180.

According to Dr. Richard Grip, executive director of New Jersey-based Statistical Forecasting, elementary school enrollment will continue to drop over the next five years. The prediction is based on the results of the consulting firm’s study of Scarsdale’s demographic and enrollment outlook for the next five years, with data about birth rates, historical enrollments and new housing starts. The forecasting is done over five years, Grip said, because a 10-year outlook would require analysis of people who haven’t been born yet.

The study found Scarsdale has experienced “negative kindergarten replacement” in eight of the last nine years, ranging from 25 to 123 students per year. Overall, the district lost about 78 students per year because of negative kindergarten replacement. Negative kindergarten replacement occurs when the number of graduating 12th-grade students is larger than the number of kindergarten students replacing them in the same year.

Grip said the negative kindergarten enrollment rate could be due to a smaller family size, but “I think it’s a combination of things,” he said.

The number of births — another factor used to project kindergarten enrollments — has been declining in the Scarsdale Public Schools attendance area.

The highest number, 172 births, was recorded in 2004 and then dwindled to 88 in 2013. In the last three years, according to the report, the number of births has been relatively stable, ranging from 96 to 99 births per year.

The demographic study found the majority of men and women who are Scarsdale residents are between the ages of 45 and 49. The fact that the majority of female residents who live in the village may be beyond child-bearing years, Grip explained, may be a reason for a lower birth and fertility rate in the village.

A very small number of residents between the ages of 20 and 34 live in the village, Grip said, which may have to do with that demographic segment not being able to afford the high tax rates. However, the study found there’s a greater number of residents between the ages of 35 and 39.

Though numbers in the elementary schools are slipping, enrollments overall have been fairly stable for the last 10 years.

At the high school enrollment increased by 97 students from 1,433 in the 2009-10 school year to 1,530 students in 2018-19.

In addition, about 7.4 percent of Scarsdale’s total resident student population, or 380 students, attended nonpublic schools last school year, compared with 448 in 2013-14.

Housing options can impact enrollment numbers as well. So far, there aren’t any residential developments under construction in Scarsdale, nor any pending developments approved by the planning board or in the section of Mamaroneck that sends children to Scarsdale schools.

That may change, though, as the village is currently looking at a number of options to develop the Freightway site. One of the proposed options would include housing in that space. However, those discussions remain in the preliminary stages, and, Grip said, families with children don’t typically live in a housing unit close to a train station. Rather, he said, those developments are generally occupied by millennials, baby boomers and Generation Z because the units are more affordable, close to downtown amenities and within a short walk to the train station.

The demographic report included a breakdown of Scarsdale’s total population by race and ethnicity, comparing 2000 census data with the Census Bureau’s American Community Survey. Between 2012 and 2016, 81.4 percent of residents were white, 0.9 percent black, 0 percent Native American or an Alaskan Native, 14 percent Asian — a nearly 2 percent increase from the 2000 census data — and 4 percent Hispanic. About 3.2 percent of the village identified as two or more races and 0.4 percent identified as “other.”

The full report, including data and charts, is posted on the school website, scarsdaleschools.org.

Also on Monday night, the school board heard requests for 4.28 additional staff positions at an estimated cost of $366,550.

The requests included $110,000 for a full-time STEAM/math teacher at the high school to cover an anticipated enrollment increase in the Science Research program, and Advanced Topics (AT) biology, chemistry and physics courses. Currently, those AT classes average 27 to 28 students per section; with that level of enrollment, SHS principal Ken Bonamo said “it becomes a diminished experience” for students in lab-based courses.

Also at the high school level, one full-time academic support teacher is requested to allow additional students who are not classified to receive building-level support. The cost would be $110,000.

At the districtwide level, a request was made for one additional full-time psychologist to provide counseling, intervention and skills-based support at all the schools. The additional specialist, for $110,000, would develop services for students experiencing social, emotional or behavioral issues and would also provide direct psychological intervention.

Another recommendation was for a full-time technical support specialist to work with staff and students using the middle school’s new 1:1 iPad program. Rachel Moseley, director of information technology and chief information officer, said replacing a computer aide and technology department summer intern would offset the $30,750 cost for the specialist.

The athletics department requested a part-time office assistant — a .28 position would cost $15,800 — to manage incident reports, athletic practice calendars, transportation waivers and other forms, handbooks and publications for the department.

No other additional teaching staff was requested in general education classes at the elementary or middle school levels. In fact, there would be one less certified teaching staff position at the elementary school level due to lower enrollment projections.

The 2018-19 budget covered 108 elementary teachers (two were contingent positions), but only 103 were needed due to lower than expected actual enrollment. The preliminary request for 2019-20 includes two contingent full-time elementary classroom teachers to maintain class size in case there would be an unanticipated jump in enrollment — numbers may shift as people move in or out of the district over the summer.

The special education department requested one contingent full-time special education teacher to cover anticipated needs for Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) classes or other unanticipated enrollment-driven needs.

The 2018-19 budget covered 10 special education sections, while the actual number of enrolled kindergartners with special needs was larger than expected, pushing the number to 11 sections.

Over the past five years, the total number of certified teaching staff ranged from 436.4 to 456.5 positions. The current number of teaching positions is 453.7, which is a decrease of 5.2 full-time employees from the previous year, due mostly to a decline in 2018-19 kindergarten enrollment by about 60 students, or three class sections.

The cap on class size for kindergarten through third grade is 22 students per section; for grades 4 to 5, the cap is 24.

Since 2014, the total number of all certified and noncertified staff in the district has ranged between 596 and 622, with the highest number in the 2017-18 school year. Currently the staff encompasses 619.3 full-time employees, not including part-time civil service staff.

School budget planning will continue at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 28, followed by three in-depth budget study sessions at 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 4, 11 and March 11.

The full budget presentation will take place March 11, followed by a public forum March 25 and further discussions by the board, if necessary, on April 1.

The board expects to adopt the budget on April 8 and the public vote will be held May 21.

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