Port Washington School District’s enrollment projected to continue declining

Port Washington School District’s enrollment projected to continue declining
Paul D. Schreiber High School. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

A Port Washington School District’s demographics and enrollment report shows a historical enrollment decline, projecting a continued decrease over the next five years.

Board of Education members reviewing the report’s findings at its meeting Tuesday said there was no reason for concern.

“To me, that’s the takeaway – that [enrollment is] stable,” President Adam Smith said at the board’s meeting Tuesday night.

Barbara Graziano, a demographer from the Office of School Planning and Research at Western Suffolk BOCES, conducted the demographic and enrollment study for the school district. Western Suffolk BOCES is the only organization that provides this service.

Graziano said the study researches the demographics of the district – including birth trends, housing data, population changes and non-public enrollment.

The study also analyzes the enrollment of the district, which consists of trends over the past 10 years, migration from grade to grade and birth persistence analysis.

She said she conducts the study using public records, like the U.S. Census Bureau, local planning boards, school district records and the New York State Education Department.

Graziano said that enrollment in Nassau County school districts has declined since 2012, with significant declines since 2019, which she attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic.

She said the decrease from the pandemic amounted to about 9,800 students, or about 5%, countywide.

Enrollment in the Port Washington School District, unlike Nassau County in general, had growth from 2012 through 2017. But like Nassau County, Port Washington also saw a drop in enrollment due to the pandemic.

Graziano projects that the Port Washington School District’s enrollment to decrease by about 110 students over the next five years.

Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources and Leadership Christopher Shields said the last enrollment report was taken on Nov. 7, counting 5,335 students. He said this is 78 more students than at this time last year.

The district’s kindergarten enrollment from 2012-2020 ranged from 332-428 students and is projected over the next five years to range from 347-378 students.

“I’m not seeing any red flags, and I think that’s what we’re trying to look for,” Trustee Deborah Brooks said.

Graziano said district enrollment has been impacted by the pandemic and displacement, which is when smaller classes at lower grades move up and replace higher grades that were comprised of larger classes.

She said this trend has occurred over the past five years and is projected to continue over the next five years.

Overall, Graziano said the district has lost a total of 259 students in grades kindergarten through 12th since its peak enrollment in 2017 of 5,398 students.

Despite drops in enrollment, Graziano said the district’s resident population increased by 4.4%, or 1,367 people, from 2010-2020.

She said the resident population age structure also changed, including a growth in the senior population and the median age rising from 42.9 years in 2010 to 43.7 years in 2020.

Nassau County births have also been declining from 2001 to 2021, with a drop of 12.7%. Births within the school district reached a peak of 379 in 2007, but have dropped to less than 300 a year for the past three years.

Port Washington’s ethnic makeup has also shifted, Graziano said, with the percentage of white residents dropping in the past 10 years.

In 2010, 72% of the population was white. In 2020, that population decreased to 67.3%

Hispanic, Asian and students of two or more ethnicities grew from 2010 to 2020. The only ethnic group that diminished in size was the black population, which fell from 1.7% to 1.5% of the population from 2010 to 2020.

The median sale price of homes in the district has “grown significantly,” Graziano said, from $760,000 in 2010 to $988,000 in 2020.

Trustee Emily Beys asked Graziano about how the study was conducted because she said she was not convinced that the district’s enrollment was declining, which Smith said he was also skeptical of as the district reports growth in enrollment.

Administrator for Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment Ira Pernick also delivered an update on the district’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives in the district.

The district’s efforts include a district equity team, school-based equity teams, community events, implicit bias training and parent meetings hosted with the ADL.

This month, Pernik said the district has held anti-bias training presented by the ADL for fourth and fifth-grade students.

“The work is really built around the importance of acceptance and personal identity, along with how to be an ally instead of a bystander when dealing with bullying,” Pernik said.

This training will also be offered at Weber Middle School in February, Pernik said.

In the spring, middle school students will take a field trip to the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center, as well as attend an assembly presented by a Holocaust survivor.

The high school has also begun its diversity, equity and inclusivity initiatives, with many conversations, training and field trips to the Holocaust Memorial and Tolerance Center already starting. Programs will continue through the spring.

The district’s security department also delivered a presentation on the assessment of its security and safety measures, with three action item categories of cultural, facility hardening and staffing.

With the report were requests for budgetary expenses by the district next year, including funding for six additional security guards, camera replacement and additions, security director, and intrusion alarm replacements. Total new expenditures requested for the 2024-2025 school year amount to about $477,465.

The Port Washington Board of Education will convene again on Dec. 5.

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