School Enrollment Up, But Not as Projected
Superintendent says only Washington Avenue kindergarten could become an issue.
Chatham Superintendent Michael LaSusa reported that school enrollment numbers are up, but not as high as projected, at Monday’s Board of Education meeting.
“Enrollment to date is 4,128 students, which is a slight increase over last year and slightly below where our demographers projected us to be a couple of years ago,” he said. “We’re in pretty good shape in all the buildings in terms of how that enrollment breaks out.”
LaSusa said the only concern would be if any new students sign up for kindergarten at Washington Avenue Elementary School, which has reached its full capacity of 100 kindergarten students. The four sections will each have 25 children.
“We’ve held at 100 basically all summer since June, so we haven’t had any additional students enroll in kindergarten in Washington Avenue School,” he said. "If we do, we will send them to Southern Boulevard School, as of right now.
LaSusa said he visited several school buildings last week.
“I made my way to a number of the buildings last week, and we’re pretty much ready to go and we’re not bursting at the seams anyplace,” he said.
Board member Richard Connors brought up an issue of transportation, asking if the number of buses lined up will accommodate all the students this year. While LaSusa did not have specific numbers, he noted that he has not heard anything out of the ordinary.
“Typically, our high school buses are almost always half empty,” LaSusa said. "We have to run them because we’re required to provide transportation if they want services.
"The high school buses are the ones that are usually the least crowded. The elementary school buses are the ones that tend to be the most crowded," he said.
Connors asked if there is any rule to prohibit mixing grade levels on the same bus, if there are no available seats for a student needing transportation.
LaSusa explained that the routes are staggered so one bus can service three different school buildings.
"The issue when you combine students is that some of the students are going to be on the bus for a longer period of time," he said. "You don’t’ want a kid on the bus for 40 minutes. They’ve got to stop at two different school buildings, and they’re the first one on."
Connors said the parent might feel differently.
“I can appreciate that, but you have some buses that are not seated to capacity, and other buses that are absolutely maxed out, and you have a child who doesn’t have an option,’” Connors said. "The parent may say, ‘Well, I’m not so upset if my kid is the first one on the bus and the last one off the bus, as long as he’s getting a ride.' "
School Board President Thomas Belding suggested talking with the business administrator on the subject.
“There’s a whole science behind bus route optimization,” Belding said. "It’s a very detailed issue, and the appropriate way to pursue it is to go through the business administrator, off-line."
"We can invite the parents to do that," Connors responded. "They should know they have the opportunity."