New Milford Public School enrollments are expected to rebound in the short term and decline over time

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NEW MILFORD – While the pandemic has been credited with declining enrollment in New Milford public schools at all levels, total enrollment is expected to rebound in the short term and then decline over time, according to a recent study.

In a presentation given at a recent Board of Education meeting, SLR Consulting’s Meghan McGaffin provided an analysis of current enrollments and also spoke about enrollment projections over the next decade.

The study, which looked at enrollment data throughout the 2020-21 school year, took into account factors such as population, births, employment, and city home sales.


Overall, New Milford’s population – at 28,115 – has remained stable, according to the U.S. Census. Since 2010, NM has experienced a decline of approximately 25 residents.

When it comes to jobs, the pandemic has hit the city very hard, McGaffin said.

She said historically New Milford’s unemployment rate has remained just below that of Litchfield County. According to the Connecticut Department of Labor, last year was the first in recent history where the city’s unemployment, at 7.5%, was higher than the county’s unemployment rate, which was 6.9% .

When it comes to births, data on current births is used to predict kindergarten enrollment in five years, McGaffin said.

Thanks to data received from the Connecticut Department of Public Health, births in New Milford ranged from 367 in 2004 to 238 in 2010. From 2015 to 2019, birth rates were fairly stable, averaging 243 per year.

Last year, however, the city’s birth count fell to 199, which was an “all-time low” for the community, McGaffin said.

In terms of home sales, “the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to high selling prices in New Milford and across the state,” McGaffin said.

The number of single-family home sales in the city has gone from a low of about 200 in 2011 to a high of almost 400 last year.

In addition, there are approximately 400 future housing units in the city that are expected to become available.

The units are located in the following developments: Riverwalk by the Housatonic, 69 Lanesville Road, 189 Danbury Road and 143 West Street, 1 & 2 Bucek Lane / Poplar Street, 38-46 Lanesville Road, 64 Boardman Road and 69 Sunny Valley Road.

The majority of these developments are one or two bedroom multi-family units.

McGaffin said, however, that these types of homes often don’t “drive” new students to the area.

“These tend to be aimed at young professionals or people looking to downsize,” she said. “Your main growth drivers come from the three-bedroom units. “

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Although there was a sharp drop in school enrollment last year, that can be attributed to the pandemic, McGaffin said.

During the 2019 to 2020 school year, there were approximately 3,900 students enrolled in total from Junior Kindergarten to Grade 12, and the following school year that number dropped by about 200 students.

Elementary enrollment has remained generally stable over the past five years, while middle, middle and high school enrollment has “steadily declined,” McGaffin said.

Kindergarten enrollment in the past school year has fallen by about 50 students, which is in line with trends statewide, she added. Factors such as home schooling, private kindergartens and delayed entry all have an impact on these numbers.

According to McGaffin, birth projections, combined with housing and demographic data such as unemployment, home sales, women of childbearing age, fertility rates and population, are all factored into the projections of schooling.

The study she referred to, called Cohort Survival Methodology, draws on data from the recent past to predict the future, she said.

Persistence ratios are also used to predict future school enrollment, McGaffin said. This takes into account factors such as housing construction, residential development, economic conditions and student transfers.

“Despite the sharp decline in births last year, we expect birth rates to pick up and then rebound,” McGaffin said. “We anticipate, by 2025, some revival of recent trends from the past for your birth rate, which will then inform future kindergarten classes.”

Housing currently under development in the city is another factor used to determine future listings, she said.

“The two housing projects that are expected to impact future student enrollment will be the 150 units offered at 189 Danbury Road and 109 units at 143 West St,” she said.

About 60 students are expected to come out of these two developments. Both of these developments are in the Hill and Plain Elementary School Districts. She said, however, that these units are not expected to be occupied until around 2025.

Using district-wide forecasts, overall school enrollment in New Milford is expected to continue to decline to approximately 3,500 students (from approximately 3,700) by the 2030-2031 school year.

She added that the number of enrolled students is expected to rebound next year as home students, late-entry students and private school students return to New Milford public schools.

“We don’t anticipate any major, earth-shattering changes,” McGaffin said. “We anticipate a return to the way things had historically been in the neighborhood.”

sfox@milfordmirror.com


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