Enrollment projected to remain steady
Published 12:00 am, Friday, June 16, 2017
WESTPORT— Efficient and steady — those are the takeaways from a district-wide enrollment study.
There is one area of slight concern: the upward trend of enrollment at Kings Highway Elementary School. Even that, however, does not seem to warrant any big-picture changes to how the district operates.
“We have a pressure point at Kings Highway,” Superintendent Colleen Palmer said at a June 12 school board meeting. “I think there are some strategies that we can look at with that.”
Currently the school is at 97.4 percent capacity and starting in 2019, the elementary school is expected to be either at capacity or over it, according to the report by the consulting firm Milone & MacBroom.
While that statistic does warrant “some caution,” said Mike Zuba, who presented the results, he added that there is a flex room that could be used to handle the potential overflow of students. The flex room at Kings Highway would increase the school’s capacity by 23 students and, if incorporated, prevent the school from going over capacity in the future.
Using the Kings Highway flex room would “ease the pressure points,” Zuba told the school board.
Even though the other elementary schools are not seeing the same increase at Kings Highway, they are still operating “very efficiently,” Zuba said, and elementary utilization is expected to hover steadily around 91 percent for the next decade.
Consequently, closing an elementary school — an idea that has been mentioned — is not feasible.
“We cannot close any of the schools,” Palmer said. “We have the data to show that is just not a possibility.”
Stepping away from the elementary schools, enrollment projections are trending down in the coming years for both middle schools. Given the anticipated decrease in population at the middle schools, Palmer said the district did not bother looking into flex space there.
“What we’re seeing is relatively flat town-wide population,” Zuba said.
Currently, the district population is at 5,545, with an expected decrease by 2027 of anywhere from 123 to 733 fewer students.
School board member Vik Muktavaram said he wanted a chance to further digest and discuss the findings.
“I think we should schedule a one- or two-hour workshop and include other bodies like the PTA,” he said.
Candance Banks, the PTA co-president, agreed it was a lot of information to absorb in just one night, adding she thought the presentation was “a fascinating snapshot” of the town.