Many people would assume Albany or Shenendehowa are the biggest school districts in the Capital Region. And they would be wrong.
The correct answer is Schenectady.
The city school district’s enrollment was 9,774 as of the end of January. This compares with 9,755 for the Shenendehowa Central School District and 8,889 for the Albany City School District.
Schenectady’s rising enrollment may not be widely known, but it is not new, according to Superintendent Eric Ely.
“We’ve kind of gone back and forth between us and Shenendehowa as to who’s biggest,” he said. “We’ve grown 1 to 4 percent every year for about the last 18 or 19 years, except one.”
Ely attributed the rise in enrollment to the availability of housing. Young families buying their first homes will gravitate to Schenectady, he said, and these families often result in young children. He said the revitalization of Schenectady’s downtown and the influx in the Guyanese population has also contributed to growth. He anticipates an increase of about 100 students per year with other development like the new engineering jobs coming to General Electric, the relocation of the Golub headquarters to the former Big N Plaza on Nott Street and the continued revitalization of downtown.
The rising enrollment has created some challenges for Schenectady. Ely said the school wants to bring its class sizes down. From third grade and up, class sizes have been in the range of 26 to 30 students. He would like to reduce that to 18 to 22.
The new William Keane Elementary School at the former St. Luke’s this fall will ease some of the overcrowding. Also, the school will undertake a project this summer to construct an addition onto the King Magnet School containing science laboratories, family and consumer science classrooms, locker rooms and a cafeteria.
The district also plans a six-classroom addition at Paige Elementary School this summer.
Also, Ely said the district plans to ease overcrowding at Zoller Elementary School, which has 500 students, by turning the Yates Arts in Education Magnet School into a combination neighborhood and magnet school next fall. Students in the neighborhood would be given the option to go to the school. Zoller has 321 students currently. Existing students could stay in their respective schools, Ely said.
“We can’t continue to pack students into Zoller,” he said.