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School Enrollment Swings Being Watched Closely

Glenville, North Mianus, New Lebanon, Cos Cob and Western Middle schools have rapidly increasing student populations.

 

"Enrollment Flat, But..."

...that masks great variation amongst schools," said Superintendent Dr. William McKersie last week at the Board of Education's Oct. 4 work session, which began with an Annual Enrollment Update.

The district is required to report its enrollment to the State Department of Education (SDE) by Oct. 1 and the report includes "trends identified by the district for planning purposes," said Board Chairman Leslie Moriarty.

The report states that while enrollment district-wide is expected to remain stable, "significant increases and decreases among individual elementary and middle schools could potentially result in the adjustment of school attendance areas."

There are some schools which are "increasing at quite a rapid clip," McKersie explained to the board, specifically Glenville, North Mianus, New Lebanon, Cos Cob and Western.

Conversely, there are "significant declines" projected over the next 5 years at Parkway, North Street and "small declines as we project out at Central, Riverside and Hamilton Ave." The other schools remain flat in the projections.

McKersie stated that "the key issue here is the capacity of the schools" when faced with challenges of enrollment management. Moriarty added that utilizing the district's current enrollment and last spring's facility utilization numbers (see attachment), GPS is at overall average of 86% utilization. This percentage is within the board's guidelines of 85 - 95%. 

Is It About Perception?

McKersie then told the board that he recently met with more than 50 Parkway School parents and a prevailing theme in the discussion was that families are leaving Greenwich Public Schools even before middle school due to their "perceptions" of Western and Central Middle schools.

McKersie revealed to the board that what ensued during his meeting was a "debate" amongst the parents about what is real and what is perception at Western and Central. He also agreed that conducting exit interviews with families would be a good approach to better understanding the issue.

The board plans to revisit its facility utilization numbers to help inform its approach to changing enrollment projections as well as tackling achievement and racial balance issues.

Pre-Planning For Budget

As the budget process starts to ramp up, the administration presented to the Board its Proposed Changes to Programs and Services for 2013-2014, which include a summary of "new initiatives, programs of service modification and/or staffing model changes" impacting the operating budget.

McKersie is to present his proposed budget to the board in November. Moriarty explained that the intent of this agenda item is to identify "substantive changes" which "educationally, operationally that will impact or may impact the budget that will be considered in November." 

These "major areas of work" are as follows:

  • Common Core State Standards;
  • Raising Student Achievement and improving racial balance;
  • Integrated Technology and SBAC (Smarter Balanced Assessment) Readiness;
  • District Administration Reorganization;
  • Administrator and Teacher Evaluations;
  • Math Review Process
  • Teaching loads of elementary essentials teachers

McKersie noted that the administration has not determined the cost impact for all of the new initiatives but that any incremental expense may be minimzed by reallocation of existing resources or absorption into existing duties and operations.

The report including a recommendation for the Human Resources Department to add incremental resources to support "essential" teachers who provide instruction in arts, music and physical education. The recommendation highlighted increasing workload and non-classroom demands on these teachers and went on to request incremental resources of 2.6 full-time-equivalent positions with an estimated cost of $157,000.

Technology remains a focus

Improving technology access is a priority for many in the district. At their Sept. 6, 2012 work session, the board discussed a white paper on technology, which included early discussions of a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) plan, connectivity at home and support staff required to implement a higher level of technology.

At that time, the board asked that "a technology consultant be hired to determine a comprehensive approach to integrating technology as we move forward in implementing the Common Core Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment, as well as address the challenges inherent in some of the changes under consideration including lack of access to the Internet at home, support and training needed for staff."

The district reported that currently Wi-Fi installation has been completed in all of the secondary schools and has confirmed that the infrastructure will be able to "accommodate the influx of devices that students may bring from home or receive from the district as may be recommended by the Board of Education."

Going Digital

A fiscal savings from the migration to device-based instruction may be experienced by the district as it would no longer need to purchase hard-copy textbooks.

"Our experience is that online textbooks are less expensive than paper copies; often there is a savings of 25-50% as well as a savings on shipping costs. The additional benefits for on-line textbooks include interactive, multimedia content that’s updated regularly. They also lighten the load for students with their backpacks," reports the district.

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