Clifton Park

Shen expects modest enrollment drop in coming years

Total students expected to flatten out at 9,690 in 2022
Shenendehowa students in front of the high school in September 2016.
Shenendehowa students in front of the high school in September 2016.

Categories: News, Schenectady County

CLIFTON PARK — Enrollment at one of the region’s largest school districts has held steady in recent years and may see a modest decrease over the next five.

At its Nov. 21 meeting, the Shenendehowa Board of Education got estimated enrollment numbers from Capital District Regional Planning Commission Senior Planner Dan Harp. 

There are 9,828 students enrolled for the 2017-18 school year. While the elementary schools, of which there are eight, had more students enrolled than the middle or high schools, the ninth-grade class, with 845 students, was the single largest enrollment figure in the district. 

Grades one through five saw an average of 729 kids per class this year, while the three middle schools, comprised of grades six through eight, had an average of 768 students per grade.

Peak enrollment occurred around 2008, with close to 9,900 students in the district. Though enrollment did steadily increase from 2000 to 2008, it has, for the most part, remained stable for the past decade, with only a slight decrease in 2013.

Superintendent Oliver Robinson estimated there are around 900 students who live in the school district but are enrolled in private or parochial schools, a number that has remained fairly stable over the past several years.

There are different metrics the planning committee can use to predict trends in the district, including new housing construction, as it tries to anticipate how many children will be entering the district, Robinson said.

“We can use demographic multipliers to try to gauge and estimate how many children will be produced or will be generated in those homes,” he added.

“Harp estimated that enrollment would go down to 9,799 for the 2019 to 2020 school year, and noted that the downtick was estimated to fluctuate, but ultimately decrease by 138 students until enrollment levels off at 9,690 in 2022, or about 1.4 percent decrease over the five years.”

Board member Deanna Stephenson noted that, while the numbers show decreases, that could change if the district decides to offer full-day kindergarten, as opposed to the current half-day program. Some parents who want full-day kindergarten opt to send their children to private schools in order to get such programs.The district has cited lack of space as a primary reason it can’t offer a full-day program at this point.

“You’re seeing numbers that may drop,” Stephenson said, “but we may see numbers that go back up.”

Ultimately, Harp said, Shen has been uniquely unaffected by decreasing enrollments in nearby districts.

“Shen breaks the mold for every other school district in the region,” Harp said, noting that all districts the planning commission works with have seen steady declines in enrollment since reaching enrollment peak in the late ’90s. “Your decline, if you can even call it that, is very modest by regional standards.”

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