Greenwich enrollment rises, along with student need
By Jo Kroeker Updated 8:34 am EDT, Wednesday, October 24, 2018
GREENWICH — Enrollment for Greenwich Public Schools is up
for the fifth consecutive year and will peak next year, according to district
data collected this October.
The district is also seeing a historic high in the number of
students who identify as Hispanic or of two or more ethnicities. For the first
time, more than one-third of Greenwich students meet the state definition of
“high needs,” meaning they qualify for free- or reduced-price lunch, require
special education services or are learning English.
The data show these students are overwhelmingly attending
New Lebanon and Hamilton Avenue, two schools that will again be cited by the
State Department of Education as racially imbalanced. Schools with that
designation either exceed, as New Lebanon and Hamilton Avenue do, or fall short
of the district’s average enrollment of minority students by 25 percentage
points or more.
This year’s data also classifies Western Middle School as
impending racial imbalance toward minority students. The state designates
schools as impending racial imbalance if they exceed or fall short of the
district average for minority enrollment by 15 percentage points.
Riverside and Parkway will also be labeled impending racial
imbalance, but unlike New Lebanon and Hamilton Avenue, they fall below the
district’s average minority enrollment, by 16.8 and 18.2 percentage points,
Officials say the data concerning racial imbalance confirms
what they knew four years ago.
“(It) reflects data similar to that which was known when the
current Racial Balance Plan was developed, which was approved by the State
Board of Education in July 2014,” Interim Superintendent Ralph Mayo said in a
Connecticut law requires school districts with imbalanced
schools to submit a racial-balance plan. It does not require that the district
actually achieve racial balance, however.
Board members and administrators hope the opening of the new
New Lebanon building, meant to accommodate more students in the neighborhood
and attract more magnet students, will affect the report’s findings.
“The district will continue to track racial balance status
on an annual basis, but will not be in a position to evaluate the plan’s impact
until the new New Lebanon School has been opened and has had a chance to
attract new magnet students,” Mayo said.
Forty-seven non-minority students would have to enroll at
New Lebanon for the school to achieve racial balance, District Research Manager
Jennifer Lau said when she presented the data during the Board of Education
Traditionally, past magnet programs in western Greenwich
schools have failed to attract significant numbers of students from elsewhere
Outbound migration from New Lebanon has affected the racial
composition of the school, which is 80 percent minority, school records show. The
“catchment area,” meaning the neighborhood district that geographically feeds
the school, is 69 percent minority.
“So you can infer from that what the outbound racial
composition was,” Lau said, adding that the school’s space constraints prevent
more families from enrolling their children at New Lebanon.
District-wide, over the last five years, the percentage of
Hispanic students has risen steadily, from 18 percent to 22 percent, as has the
percentage of students who identify with two or more races, from 3.4 percent to
4.9 percent. Numbers for Asian and African-American students have remained
constant, under 9 percent and 3 percent, respectively.
More students require special education services, rising
steadily from 885 in 2013 to 1,072 in 2018. The number of students learning
English, 519, broke 500 for the second time.
The increase in high-needs students is mostly attributed to
state mechanisms that automatically enroll students for free- or reduced-price
lunch, Lau said.
“Those students existed already, it was just a matter of us
surfacing them,” she said.
The next 10 years
This year, 9,113 students are enrolled in Greenwich Public
Schools for preschool through 12th grade. The number, up 71 students from last
year, includes young adults in Greenwich’s alternative education program,
Windrose, and the 28 students the district outplaces for special education
GPS enrollment will increase for the sixth consecutive year
and peak in 2019-20, according to projections. Members of the 732-member class
of 2026, fifth graders now, are driving the district’s enrollment spikes.
Middle-school enrollment will peak in 2019-20, when the
class starts the sixth grade, and high-school enrollment will peak in 2022-23,
when they enter the ninth grade, according to projections.
The rise started in 2013 because of a migration of students
to the district and a positive rate of kindergartners replacing graduating
seniors, Lau said.
But the town’s birth rate is projected to decline over the
next decade, meaning the district — currently balking statewide declines in
school enrollment — will eventually follow other Connecticut school districts.
After the class of 2026, enrollment will return to what Lau
calls “normal levels,” averaging 8,912 over the next 10 years. This estimated
average approaches the average from the last decade, 8,891 students.