Many people might assume Albany or Shenendehowa are the biggest school districts in the Capital Region, based on student population.
And they would be wrong. The correct answer is Schenectady.
The city school district’s enrollment was at 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 developments 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.
Albany’s enrollment figures are skewed by the district’s eight charter schools, according to district spokesman Ron Lesko.
During the 2000-2001 school year, Lesko said, the district had 10,111 enrolled students and New Covenant, the city’s only charter school at that time, had about 300 students. This year, it has eight charter schools with 1,500 students with a ninth school projected to open in the fall.
Lesko said the district is projecting declining enrollment — to roughly 8,050 students by the 2013-2014 school year.
“The total number of school-aged children in the city has not changed and we’re not predicting it will change much over the next few years,” he said.
By 2013-2014, it is projecting that there will be 2,376 students in charter schools.
The Shenendehowa School District has seen a steady growth of about 100 students per year since 2001, when they were at 9,128 students, according to spokeswoman Kelly DeFeciani.
She anticipates that growth will continue, but at a slower pace of maybe 50 students per year.
“The pace is slowing down because of the [housing] market,” she said.
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. Ely said this project will allow the school to expand to a K-7 school in the fall and its ultimate goal of a kindergarten through eighth grade in the fall of 2009.
Ely said research has shown that keeping students in one building helps them in their academic growth. This will also ease some overcrowding by drawing seventh- and eighth-grade students from the other buildings.
Parents of seventh- and eighth-graders will have the option of keeping their children at King or sending them to a middle school, Ely said.
The district also plans a six-classroom addition at Paige Elementary School this summer.
Also, Ely said district plans to ease the 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. Yates has 321 students currently. Existing students could stay in their respective schools, Ely said.
In addition, Yates would expand to a kindergarten through sixth-grade school, but spread the students out more evenly.
“We can’t continue to pack students into Zoller,” he said.
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Categories: Schenectady County