A study commissioned by the Katonah Lewisboro school district revealed a significant drop in projected enrollment over the next few years and showed that the number of young adults and children in the district is shrinking.
By 2016-17, the district's enrollment will be fewer than 3,000 students—down from a peak of over 4,000 students in 2006-07. The 25 percent drop in enrollment over a ten-year-period was forecast by Richard Grip, Ed.D., executive director of Statistical Forecasting LLC.
The findings were based on census data, historical enrollments, housing statistics and birth rates.
Reasons for decline
Grip provided data and analysis that revealed a greater concentration of adults in the 40-65 age range, and not enough women in the 20-34 and 35-39 age range living here and having kids. He also said the median home price of about $700,000 may be too steep for young families to move to the district.
(See details in his presentation posted with this story.)
"You just don't have enough people in the age strata that have kids that can afford the price of a median home," he said.
The resulting scenario? A "negative kindergarten replacement" in each of the last five years. In 2011-12 alone, the district lost 126 students as 351 graduates from the previous spring were replaced by 225 incoming kindergarteners.
Grip's analysis took into account potential developments in areas served by the district including ten developments in Lewisboro and new building permits in Bedford, which could result in up to 75 new children in local schools.
Board member Stephanie Tobin asked about the impact of families with young children moving into homes already on the market, which weren't taken into account in Grip's analysis due to a high cost of study.
"It seems to me to not account for home resales is to miss a potentially large source of kids coming into the district," she said. Board member Charles Day added that while he wasn't "rooting for a bigger district or a smaller district," he wanted to know what the numbers were for planning purposes.
"There is a capacity of houses here that at one time housed up to 4,000 students," he said, and wondered if that could be reached again.
Superintendent of Schools Paul Kreutzer said any solutions the district discussed as a result of the demographic study should not "run narrow."
"For the sake of argument, let's say the economy gets better. Well, we didn't get here overnight...It will take some time to go back up to 4,000 students. We may decide we want to run the buildings as they are, or we may want to have more classrooms we do extra things in, who knows. We don't want to run ourselves razor-thin. Let's have that potential in mind for facility planning."
In a statement released after the meeting, Mark Lipton, school board president, said they were aware of the but the study helped officials understand why the decline was happening.
“The findings reveal that we can expect to see an even more dramatic drop in enrollment in the next four years, a critical point for us to consider as we plan and prepare for the future of our district. Having a more solid idea of what to anticipate will help us make decisions that are aligned with our continuous objectives of student learning, achievement, and fiscal responsibility.”