I have never been the first to arrive at anything – well until Tuesday morning at the Nautilus Diner on Boston Post Road for the December Larchmont Mamaroneck Summit Meeting. December’s meeting featured Dr. Shaps who addressed enrollment trends within the local school system. Dr. Shaps, who is the Superintendent of Schools has always planned in advance, and as far back as 2010 had anticipated future school enrollment. Based on their statistics, they had thought the school enrollment would be less. Such is true in neighboring school districts (Chappaqua, Byram Hills) but not so in Mamaroneck. The school enrollment has actually increased by 13%! Of course that is a testament to the desirability of the neighborhood, but what are the options?
Dr. Shaps stated that back in 1968, there were over 800 students compared to the 750 of today so what is the issue? The programs have changed dramatically, and the needs of children have also changed. Back in 2010 a demographic study showed a steady decline in Kindergarten student enrollment. However, it is anticipated that there will be a peak enrollment this year from 5112 K- Grade 12 students to 5607 students – 605 more students than anticipated. Some speculation was the collapse in the economy, and with the housing recovery more families entering the area and school system – and yet as noted before Byram Hills has lost 10% of its’ enrollment in recent years. Scarsdale is down 46 students but Mamaroneck is up 450 students.. In 2010 there were 1444 students, and there will be over 1600 this upcoming year with an anticipated student body of over 6000 students.
Both the Murray Avenue and Chatsworth schools are at capacity now, and Dr. Shaps is now looking into the learning space challenge. He mentioned that some 40 students from those two schools are attending the bi-lingual program at the Mamaroneck Avenue School thus freeing some space from those schools. Dr. Shaps commented on meeting a new home owner and mother of a Kindergarten school child, and how she informed him how much she ‘loves’ the area and school system – and was going to be telling all of her friends from Brooklyn to move here . Great but the district needs both a short term and long term solution. Should the classroom sizes be increased from 22-25 right now? Should there be re-districting by moving the school map? Increasing the classroom size is not optimal especially since all children have varying needs. Modular classrooms could be an option but where would they be placed? There is no space, and they are expensive. Building a new school would be ideal but that would also be expensive and where?
There has also been discussion on the “Princeton Plan” which groups all students in certain grades in different buildings as compared to utilizing geographic mapping. Dr. Shaps stated that they committed to keeping the same high level of quality education throughout whichever process they choose, and he will be organizing a task force comprised of a cross section of the community so they can step back, and prioritize the needs of the community and its students, and what they will be requiring for the future and their success.
Dr. Shaps also cited Heidi Hayes Jacobs book entitled “Bold Moves” Ms. Jacobs traveled around the country viewing, learning what is needed, what is happening throughout the different regions in an effort to better help our school systems.
Dr. Shaps mentioned that they would be having quarterly meetings to address the situation and to produce a creative solution to please all.
Mamaroneck is GREAT!