A committee has been established to tackle the declining enrollment at Bayport-Blue Point Schools
The enrollment committee was formed in March 2018, in response to a district presentation regarding a demographic study done in 2017, with approximately 40 stakeholders including faculty, staff, residents and parents involved in finding a solution.
Patrick Rueb, a Blue Point Elementary school parent, said he became aware of the situation and has been following it, hoping other parents do as well. Though many might not be aware of it, he said, the district has done a good job about being transparent about the possibility of changes.
“The possibility of [reconfiguration] is very concerning to me and could be very disruptive for elementary school students,” he said, explaining that they would have to change schools frequently year after year.
Last year, he said he noticed a difference in class size with only about 15 students enrolled in his daughter’s kindergarten class, but this year he said those numbers have gone up and a teacher has even been added.
The decision, however, only requires a board of education vote and to his understanding, will be implemented as soon as next year.
Jessica Oelcher, a mother of three with one child in fifth grade and another in eighth grade, chalks the issue up to lack of pre-K and busing and high taxes. Though her children will be in three different schools next year anyway, she said she is in favor of some sort of change.
“The district should do what is most fiscally responsible; there is no point in ignoring a problem,” she said, anticipating the solution.
Upon originally moving here in 2007, she said she was hesitant because of the lack of busing and no pre-K, something she feels could be part of a larger issue.
“If we could consolidate schools and get some revenue, perhaps we could afford buses or a preschool program,” she said. “It’s 2019 and what worked 20 or 30 years ago isn’t going to work now.”
Some parents were opposed to the reconfiguration, while others felt a modified version of the Princeton Plan (a method grouping elementary levels rather than neighborhoods) would work to even out class sizes.
Another BBP parent of two, Alex Wellems, felt that while class sizes need to be “reworked” there are other ways of accomplishing that goal by possibly redistricting, and while there are benefits to combining services at grade levels and cost savings, he questioned if it was worth the disruption, adding that transitions could affect the children.
“The time I spend walking my two children to and from school is invaluable,” he said. “The fact that my children know every teacher and are comfortable reduces the stress of back to school and allows [them] to adjust to a new grade level quicker.”
Finally, he continued, next year his children will be in the same school together for three years before transitioning; however, if something is implemented by next year that might not be the case.
According to the district, the topic is currently being explored in detail and length by the committee; however, a spokesperson said the preliminary groundwork is still being established for future discussion and no further comment could be made on behalf of the district or committee at this point.
The committee first met in March 2018 of this year with a goal of providing the students with the most opportunity and support for rigorous curriculum. According to the committee, graduating class sizes were at about 136 in the late ‘90s and have since grown as high as 212-13 in the late 2000s, but have since declined to just over 180 the past two school years, with the overall number of students at just about 2,139 as opposed to 2011-‘12 school year’s 2,470.
According to the committee’s presentation, elementary projections were at about 801 for this year and go as low as 792 in 2021/’22. This year’s elementary actual enrollment was 865, a bit higher than the estimate, and by 2023/’24 Blue Point Elementary School could see enrollment as low as 175 students.
Middle school is more or less on the same trend, with projected numbers as low as 434 across grades 6-8 by 2023/'24 as opposed to this school year’s 523 students, about 15 fewer students than last year’s numbers. The high school has also decreased in projections, down to 668 students across grades 9-12 opposed to this year’s 751 students.
Possibilities the district has discussed to be more efficient while offering students more opportunities include reconfigurations of grades throughout the buildings. The committee is currently reviewing and updating what the cost savings would be if the buildings were reconfigured to accommodate one building each for K-1, grades 2-3 and grades 4-5, or two K-3 buildings and one grade 4-5 building.
The committee has met monthly since March, and in order to remain transparent with the community, their work and other information has been shared on the district website. Once the research is complete, a public presentation will be made; at that time, feedback will be taken and updates will be made regularly. The initial presentation is expected to take place sometime late fall; a notice will be made on the district website and sent out to the community.