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Kindergarten enrollment surges on first day in Niskayuna

Kindergarten enrollment surges on first day in Niskayuna

District unsure if jump is start of trend or just a one-year blip
Kindergarten enrollment surges on first day in Niskayuna
Young students arrive for the first day of school in Niskayuna in this 2016 file image.
Photographer: Marc Schultz

NISKAYUNA — Kindergarten enrollment in Niskayuna climbed 42 students in the first week of school compared to last September, according to a district report on “first Friday” enrollments.

Across the district overall, 52 more students showed up to school in the first week than did last year, with a surge in elementary enrollment offsetting small declines at both the middle and high school level.

The small uptick — which included 87 more elementary students than last year — comes as district officials move ahead on plans for a capital project aimed partly at addressing what is projected to be climbing enrollments in the coming years. 

While the uptick in kindergarten enrollment could usher in the higher enrollment projected in a study of the district’s population, it could also be blip, followed by declining numbers next year. But Superintendent Cosimo Tangorra highlighted the kindergarten number at Tuesday’s school board meeting, noting that it was more than district officials had expected.

“We were all surprised over the course of the summer when they kept coming,” Tangorra said of families registering for kindergarten. 

The elementary schools now have three class sections in each building and each grade other than fifth grade at Birchwood, where classerooms averaged 27 students, and fifth grade at Rosendale, where class sizes averaged 25 at the start of the year. The increases at the elementary level lifted the school enrollments at Birchwood — 379 students — and Craig — 411 students — above the "functional operating capacity" of those buildings based on the district class size targest, according to a study of the district's enrollments and building capacities.

Enrollments grew compared with the start of last year at all of the district's five elementary schools, with enrollment at Hillside increasing by just one student. But slightly fewer students showed up for the start of school at the district's two middle schools and one high school. Overall middle school enrollment on the first Friday of school slid by nearly 20 students compared with last year. The high school had 10 fewer students than at the same time last year.

Introducing a discussion with the district's architect and financial advisor, who outlined the logistics of the planned capital project, Tangorra said he didn't want to build the plan around overly aggresive enrollment projections.

"You can always build more for students if you need," he said. "Six or seven years from now, what we don't want to do is overbuild and have more space than what we absolutely need. That would be a waste of everyone's money and time."

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