Westport student enrollment remained steady after striking drop last year

Children arrive for the first day of school at Coleytown Elementary School on Sept. 8.

Children arrive for the first day of school at Coleytown Elementary School on Sept. 8.

Scott Mullin / For Hearst Connecticut Media

WESTPORT — Enrollment remained steady after a substantial drop last year, thanks to a number of new elementary-level students, according to enrollment projections by a district demographer.

“We couldn’t have seen a greater 180 from one year to the next — especially locally,” Michael Zuba, of Milone and MacBroom, said at a Board of Education meeting this week.

The district reported 5,262 students were enrolled from kindergarten to 12th grade this school year, a slight decrease from the 5,274 reported for the 2019-2020 school year. There were 5,466 students enrolled in the 2018-2019 school year, according to the report.

Zuba said last year’s striking drop was an anomaly due to out migration and lower housing sales than usual in town, but attributed the bounceback to families with young children moving out of New York City into the suburbs.

Lower elementary grades saw the highest deviation from 2020-21 enrollment projections, especially at Greens Farms Elementary School where 481 students were enrolled, 37 higher than predicted. Coleytown Elementary, Long Lots and Kings Highway all exceeded expectations as well.

Half of Westport’s District Reference Group saw larger kindergarten classes this year as compared to last, with Westport seeing the second highest growth behind Wilton.

“Year-over-year enrollment was very stable since last school year, however when we look at the individual groupings elementary saw the greatest increase,” Patrick Gallagher, of Milone and MacBroom, said.

Elementary enrollment increased by 95 students, while middle and high school enrollment decreased by 61 and 46 students respectively.

Zuba said low, medium and high projections for enrollment over the next decade predict an enrollment of 4,848, 5,182 and 5,498 students respectively.

“This year, as we have in the past, we view the medium model as the best fit,” he said, adding if the elevated housing market continues over the next few years the high projection may be more reliable.

BOE members questioned whether the enrollment projections accounted for families that have moved into town, but have not yet enrolled their kids.

BOE member Karen Kleine said many see families continuing to move to town.

“I’ve even heard people predicting as leases expire in New York City it may continue,” she said.

Kleine said families who have moved in may not have their kids immediately enrolled in the schools, but may be enrolled next school year.

Zuba said the first two year’s of the medium model projections looked to capture a possible uptick in students and would do a good job in the short-term to capture this.

“However, over the long term if this elevated level of immigration stays in place we would see the higher model would definitely prove to be more accurate,” he said.

Superintendent Thomas Scarice said enrollment projections were used for planning purposes in his prior district. He said enrollment level drops at the secondary level looked temporary, but it could be a programmatic advantage.

“It’s a lot of ways we could look at these projections for our advantages,” Scarice said.

dj.simmons@hearstmediact.com