School enrollment is declining in New York’s Hudson Valley. A new report shows projections through 2020, and already has three years of numbers demonstrating the downward trend.
The report, entitled “The Empty Classroom Syndrome,” looks at enrollment projections for 114 public school districts across nine Hudson Valley counties – Columbia, Dutchess, Greene, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Ulster, and Westchester. Newburgh-based non-profit planning and policy organization Pattern for Progress released the report. Here’s Pattern’s President and CEO Jonathan Drapkin.
He says the decline is felt less acutely for the county closest to New York City – Westchester, and more acutely for Columbia and Greene Counties.
David Albert is a spokesman for the New York State School Boards Association.
Robert Lowry is a spokesman for the New York State Council of School Superintendents. He sees the Hudson Valley as catching up in decline, so to speak, with other areas of the state.
Pattern’s Drapkin says once a school district and its community acknowledge a major trend of declining enrollment, the discussion of what to do comes into play; everything from a merger to shared services, or the regionalization of services, such as for teaching languages, and Advanced Placement, or AP, courses.
The School Boards Association’s Albert says school closures are difficult decisions, both emotionally and logistically, and he cites transportation and community issues as factors.
And here’s the Council of School Superintendents’ Lowry.
Both he and Drapkin cite the high pension and health benefits costs continuing despite declining enrollment, and the state mandated 2-percent property tax cap as a further cost constraint.
When it comes to a merger or closure, Pattern does not become involved in the district’s decision.
The Pattern report “The Empty Classroom Syndrome” is a follow-up to the organization’s “Closed Schools, Open Mind” report from 2012. Below is a link to the new report.