Feb 29, 2012 Ned Campbell Uncategorized
Enrollment at Fayetteville-Manlius is on the decline — though you wouldn’t know it from counting tassels at recent graduation ceremonies.
“There was a bubble,” said Superintendent Corliss Kaiser. “It’s now left the middle schools and it’s in the high schools, so for the next couple of years you will see more graduates, and then that will gradually decline.”
While the senior class has seen a steady climb in enrollment in recent years — increasing by nearly 100 students since 2001-02 — district-wide enrollment for 2011-12 was at 4,423, a drop-off of 120 from the previous year’s 4,543. The district projects that by 2015-16, enrollment will be down to 3,880.
The district is already feeling the impact of having fewer heads in the classrooms, Kaiser said. The first thing to go is the teaching positions.
“At this point we’re looking primarily at the teachers that we need in the classroom and that certainly is being affected,” Kaiser said. “When you take a look at the budget you can see the number of teachers who no longer work here as a result of attrition, meaning we didn’t need them in a particular year.”
The district is equipped with 18 fewer full-time positions now than in 2009-2010, and the 2012-13 spending plan proposed by administrators Feb. 13 includes seven full-time employee reductions.
Kaiser said the district is keeping a close eye on enrollment numbers, though drastic measures — such as the closure of a school — are a ways down the road.
“Right now all of our elementary and middle schools are full, but we will be watching to see the number of classrooms as we move forward, and whether or not there is sufficient enrollment to keep all schools open.”
Mott Road did close in the late 1980s/early 1990s, Kaiser said, following a similar downward trend in enrollment at F-M. Enrollment dropped steadily in the 1980s — from 4,126 in 1979-80 to 3,786 10 years later — before picking back up in the 1990s.
“[Mott Road] was closed, and then reopened once the enrollment picked up again, so we do have to be watching that very, very closely,” Kaiser said.
She said the district is also paying attention to the declining population of Central New York and its affect on F-M and neighboring schools.
“If you look at similar school districts [such as Liverpool, North Syracuse and Baldwinsville], you’re going to find similar trends,” Kaiser said. “I believe there’s maybe one or two schools who are remaining stable in their population.”
The district’s projections come from looking at kindergarten enrollment, which between the 2010-11 and 2011-12 school years dropped by 41 students.
“We do an enrollment study each year and one of the factors is the enrollment in kindergarten, and through that enrollment in kindergarten you can do a straight line projection through to the senior high to see how many kids would be in a particular class,” Kaiser said.
Other factors include the area’s live birth rate, which is declining, and how many parents, or future parents, are moving in and out of F-M.
As one possible factor, Kaiser pointed to housing development in the area being relatively flat due to the slumping economy. Also contributing to the decline, though, could be that throughout Central New York people are simply not moving out of their homes because it is not the best time to sell, she said.
“I don’t think there’s a reason why [parents] are not coming to F-M,” Kaiser said. “I just think they’re staying put.”
Mark W. Re, vice president and general manager of RealtyUSA’s Central Region, recently told Eagle Newspapers that right now is the best time to buy real estate in CNY. This also means that selling could be a different story. The key is to price your house appropriately, he said.
“If you are selling your house and want to move into a bigger house … you’re not getting as much as you would have years ago,” he said, “but the house you are looking to buy is also priced less.”
Cheryl Schotz, a licensed real estate broker with RealtyUSA who specializes in Manlius, is optimistic that F-M’s enrollment numbers will soon bounce back based on what she’s seeing in the local real estate market.
“I truly feel that the enrollment is not declining in Fayetteville-Manlius Schools,” she said. “If someone is leaving the area we’re getting them replaced with families with children. I get one or two calls a week myself, just me, saying they want to move to F-M for the award-winning schools.”
She does not share the district’s concern that people are not moving into the area because they’re afraid to sell their homes.
“Maybe some people are staying in their homes, but others are moving out,” she said. “They might be scaling down in terms of size of homes, but we have people moving into the area all the time.”
“Families aren’t as large as they used to be, either,” she added. “People aren’t having as many children. That’s what I’m seeing.”
Schotz and Superintendent Kaiser would agree, however, that there’s nothing about the F-M area stopping people from moving in.
“The phones are really ringing,” Schotz said.
Ned Campbell is editor of the Eagle Bulletin. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.