‘Sixth-grade academy’ redistricting option still on the table amid steady enrollment
WESTPORT — Student population in town is steady and not in a drastic decline, according to a consultant report presented to the Board of Education Monday night.
Westport has rebounded nicely since the Great Recession, Mike Zuba, Director of Planning at the firm Milone & MacBroom, told the Board of Education in his presentation of enrollment projections for the district.
Medium projection models show a modest increase in births to 221 annually by 2023, projections show.
The increase translates to stable elementary school enrollment compared to other Fairfield County schools, Zuba said.
Total enrollment is expected to decline until 2026-27 and then begin to rebound after that, primarily due to estimated increases in K-5 enrollment.
“Elementary school (K-5) enrollments projected to bottom out over the next three years before beginning a slow rebound to 2,391 by 2028-2029,” Zuba’s presentation read.
The expected implications for Westport schools of the five-year enrollment decline in enrollment before the rebound is fewer students in all schools except Coleytown Elementary School and Greens Farms Elementary School, Zuba said.
Meanwhile, Coleytown Middle School has a projected stable enrollment around 420-440 students, while the population at Bedford Middle School will stabilize around 750-775 after an initial decline, Zuba said.
BOE member Candice Savin asked about concern in town surrounding the potential impact of dense, 8-30g affordable housing developments on the schools’ population, and Zuba said the report only took into account approved developments and not proposed projects or those in pending litigation, such as the 81-unit affordable housing complex proposed for Lincoln Street.
Given the enrollment projections, BOE member Elaine Whitney said the most prudent course of action is to keep eight schools.
The BOE Teaching and Learning Committee is nonetheless analyzing the use of those eight schools and considering turning Coleytown Middle School into a “sixth-grade academy” once it reopens. A presentation on this concept will be made at the board’s March 4 meeting, Savin said.
In other business, the BOE voted unanimously to approve a $118,500,464 operating budget for the next school year, a 2 percent increase over this year’s budget.
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