Back-to-school enrollments: District hires three teachers post-budget

A decrease in first-day enrollment numbers — 4,863 students last year compared to 4,781 students walking Ridgefield’s hallways on Aug. 31 this year — did not stop public school district from hiring three additional teachers.

The hires — one elementary school teacher at Barlow Mountain, another at Veterans Park, and a special education teacher at Scotts Ridge Middle School — were approved at the Board of Education’s first meeting for the 2018-19 school year in August.

The board justified the post-budget hires by explaining that 2018-19 first-day enrollment was higher than previously projected.

The lower enrollments and additional hires did mean one upside for some board members — smaller class sizes.

“We have some really enviable class sizes here,” said board Secretary Margaret Stamatis.

The board explained projections are prepared by a consulting firm every year to give the schools an idea of how many kids will enroll, and where.

Despite elementary enrollment being down 54 students from 1,978 in the 2017-18 school year to 1,924 on this first day of this year, there were more kids attending Barlow Mountain and Veterans Park than projected.  

Barlow Mountain saw the most dramatic increase over enrollment projections.

In the kindergarten alone, where an additional teacher was hired to keep class sizes small, some 63 students joined what will be the class of 2031. It was 18 students more than the schools predicted.

All told, 324 students enrolled in the school — 38 more than the schools anticipated.

Veterans Park also saw more students; 278 students are enrolled this year, seven more than anticipated. Most of the extra enrollments were in the first grade, where six more students joined the grade than the district projected.

A kindergarten teacher was hired by the district to break classes into smaller sizes at Barlow Mountain, and an additional second grade teacher was hired at Veterans Park after the school had shifted a teacher down a grade to break a first grade class into two smaller classes.

Big picture

Overall enrollment in the town’s nine public schools fell again this year, with a total of 4,781 students from grades kindergarten-through-12 joining the district  — 82 fewer students than were enrolled last year.

The figure does not include students enrolled in the districts pre-k program, adult education programs for 18-21 year-olds, or students with special education needs that require them to be educated outside of the district.

This year, 30 students enrolled in the district’s pre-k program, a dip of 20 students below how many the district thought would enroll.

The number of students educated off-site also increased slightly, with 34 students taught outside of the district’s schools, three more students than last year.