Port Washington school board questions enrollment growth

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Port Washington Board of Education trustees on Tuesday called on school administrators to determine the reason for an increase of 112 students last year, whether this was a trend that they could expect to continue in the future and what impact it would have on the district’s budget.

“We do know the enrollment number has increased and it seems to be a trend,” Schools Superintendent Kathleen A. Mooney said. “But staff has remained the same, and it is something we need to look at.”

Mooney said the meeting served as an “informal prediscussion” as the district approaches the budget season.

She said that in the 2014-15 school year the district had 50 new students to the Weber Middle School and 40 students in the Schrieber High School, as well as 22 students at the elementary level.

But Mooney cautioned that trustees should not read too much into the numbers, saying enrollment can be a moving target, and is better looked at in a range as opposed to a static number. 

She added that the district noticed an increase in students speaking English as a second language.

Board Trustee Alan Baer said that “there is more going on than simply normal classes moving up.”

He said the district will have to investigate the issue closely and should even consider investigating the possibility of overcrowding in houses within the Port Washington area.

“We have information in our busing list of multiple names in one house,” Baer said. “We have a larger and larger pool of kids, without a larger pool of money to support them. We have to understand what is creating this.”

Assistant Superintendent for Business Mary Callahan said the district should wait until the 2015-2016 enrollment report comes in at the end of January to see if the increase was just from one year, or an ongoing trend.

“Every year we have about 60 to 65 new students,” she said. “That’s the steady and consistent trend. This year was a dramatic change, we need to see where the second year takes us.”

Mooney said the district will look to add more staffing to compensate for the student increase, but it is not something that will be accomplished in one year. She said the issue will be closer investigated during the boards budget discussions.

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