Proposed multi-family dwellings could fuel enrollment spike in Great Neck schools

Proposed multi-family dwellings could fuel enrollment spike in Great Neck schools
Great Neck North High School. (Photo by Janelle Clausen)

Proposed multi-family dwelling units could fuel an increase of more than 300 students in the Great Neck School District over the next decade, according to a presentation made during a Wednesday night school board meeting.

District enrollment figures reported 6,608 students in the nine schools for the 2022-23 school year, a figure projected to increase to 6,976 in 2032, according to the analysis.

Urbanomics, an urban planning consultancy, was tasked with finding out how proposed and future real estate projects would impact the school district.

The analysis took into account district enrollment since 2014-15, births per school district, retention rates per grade and eight projects that are either planned, proposed or under construction for the analysis.

Projects include a 60-unit mixed-use building at 733-41 Middle Neck Road, a 38-unit mixed-use building at 777 Middle Neck Road and the 20-unit structure that is planned to be built at the site of the former Playhouse in Great Neck Estates.

Tina Lund, president of Urbanomics, said the five-year enrollment trends, birth rates and retention rates yielded a result of 20 school-age children per 100 units. Urbanomics tested their model with four multi-family structures, 437 total units, in Great Neck, which yielded a projected 86 students.

The actual enrollment between all four structures was 92, which produced more accurate results than other methods used in demographic analysis, such as the Rutgers Multipliers.

The eight projects analyzed by Urbanomics, as of Wednesday, include a total of 264 units, which would yield more than 40 school-age children, according to the presentation. Roughly 23% of school-age children, on average, attend private schools, Lund said.

Spreading those projections out across the district over the next decade, Lund said, would result in sharper increases in both middle schools and high schools.

The district reported a total of 745 students enrolled at North Middle School for the 2022-23 school year, a number which would increase to 840, according to the presentation. South Middle School’s enrollment would increase from 863 to 864, Lund said.

Great Neck North High School’s enrollment is projected to decrease from 1,183 students to 1,156 over the next decade, while Great Neck South High School is projected to grow from 1,269 to 1,339 during the same time frame, according to the analysis.

Total elementary school enrollment increased by more than 100 students to 2,496 from the 2015-16 school year to 2022-23, according to enrollment figures. Middle school enrollment grew from 1,534 to 1,608 in the same time frame, while high school enrollment held the line with an increase of one student since 2015-16, according to the data.

Great Neck School District spent more than $39,000 per pupil last year, according to an analysis by Blank Slate Media. The study analyzed approved 2022-23 budgets based on preliminary enrollment figures for 2021-22.

Retention rates, Lund said, were greater than one in almost every grade from 2015-16 to the 2032-33 projection. 

“It’s not just a matter of kids staying in school all the way through,” she said. “Every class every year is gaining students who hadn’t been previously enrolled.”

Lund did not provide specific census figures for the total population residing in the school district, but a linear graph showed an increase of approximately 5,000 individuals. Birth rates in the area, Lund said, are outliers compared to neighboring localities.

“Unlike many regions in the state and in the metropolitan area, the trend line for the number of births in the area is going up, which is highly unusual and definitely will show our input implies that there will be continued increases in enrollment through the near future,” Lund said.

Great Neck Board of Education President Rebecca Sassouni said the district engaged in the study with Urbanomics to get “a sense of a prospective look of the totality of the district,” noting recent enrollment trends and a growing number of potential developments put forward in the entire Great Neck peninsula.

Urbanomics was awarded the contract to conduct the study in November.

A total of 68 building permits for multi-family dwelling units within the school district were filed from 2020-21, according to the data. A total of 44 were filed from 2010-2019. From 1980-1984, a total of 62 such permits were filed and 52 were filed from 2000-04. Those four-year figures were the next closest to the 2020-21 number reported in the analysis.

Out of the eight proposed, planned or under construction projects included in Urbanomics’ analysis, four are in the Village of Great Neck, with others in Great Neck Estates and Great Neck Plaza.

The Village of Great Neck Estates established a business overlay district on a portion of Middle Neck Road in January, which would decrease the number of residential units from previous zoning laws. No more than one residential unit will be permitted for every 800 square feet of lot area in both districts, officials said.

A report conducted by BFJ Planning and presented in December by Frank Fish, a founding principal at BFJ, estimated that approximately 143 residential units would be established in the next 10-15 years if the zoning proposal was adopted. Within those 143 residential units, Fish said, it is estimated that 29 school-age children would be accounted for.

Local officials and nearby school board members have voiced their opposition to a housing plan proposed by Gov. Kathy Hochul that could be included in the delayed New York state 2024 budget.

Hochul’s plan call for a 3% increase in housing units over three years, the possibility of the state stepping in if the 3% goal was not met and the use of transit-oriented developments to achieve that objective. The plan is intended to close a shortage of 800,000 housing units in the New York metropolitan area.

Herricks Board of Education President Jim Gounaris said leaving the housing plans to local municipalities rather than the state would be in the best interest of the school districts so that their capacity can be effectively monitored and not put under heightened stress.

“There is no one standing here that does not support affordable housing,” Gouranis said. “A government mandate like this would only compromise school districts from being able to provide the excellent services, classrooms and programs they provide, especially for us here in Herricks.”

“We need partners in Albany to understand the way of life of our communities,” Roslyn Board of Education President Meryl Waxman Ben-Levy said. “School boards and the general community have been given precious little of information about the housing compact.”

Data from the 2020 Census showed there were more than 78,000 households in North Hempstead. A total of 2,364 housing units would have to be constructed in the town over the next three years to meet Hochul’s 3% goal.

Nassau’s population has also decreased by more than 32,000 since 1970, with 1.35 million residents reported in the 2020 Census.

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