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Twp. Schools Could Lose 500 Pupils in 5 Years

Demographer's reports shows decreasing trend through 2015-16.

A perfect storm of low housing construction, poor housing turnover, and low birth rates in Washington Township may amount to school enrollments of 500 less students five years from now than what the district currently serves, according to an analysis by demographer Dr. Richard Grip.

Grip, the executive director of Statistical Forecasting, LLC in Secaucus, was hired by the district in June to analyze current trends and project enrollment numbers for Washington Township over the next half decade. The analysis, Grip said, took about five months to complete.

The full report, which is 60 pages in length, explains that Washington Township has a low fertility rate and small opportunity for housing growth, both of which play a major factor in the projected decrease in enrollment.

Grip’s report shows that 2010-11 enrollment in the district was 2,642 students, a drop of 277 since the 2005-06 school year. The projection showed that enrollment in the 2015-16 school year could be as low as 2,120–a decrease of 522 students.

The district’s elementary schools: ; ; and , in addition to , have the capacity to house 3,160 students.

The report showed that a negative enrollment trend between 95 and 146 students per year over the next five years could effect the district.

“It’s the perfect storm of factors,” Grip said about the projected decrease. “The  analysis on housing in Washington Township showed that construction is slow, and will be slow, and the fertility rate is lower (in Washington Township) than in other areas.”

Grip’s report also shows that women of child-bearing age, 20 to 34, is one of the lower populated demographics in Washington Township.

“In order for the decrease to not continue beyond the five years, the birth rate has to stabilize,” Grip said. “I think it will. My best guess is that it will level-off at some point around then, but forecasting beyond five or six years just increases uncertainty.”

Grip also said that current home prices in Washington Township are playing a factor. The median home price in 2010, according to his report, was $515,000.

“Someone just getting out of college who wants to move here and start a family,” Grip said, “likely won’t have the means to buy a home of that price. The analysis showed that people in their older thirties and early forties are moving to the township, but they already have children who are starting here in upper grade levels.”

Academics Still Paramount

Washington Township Schools, along with the West Morris Regional School District, are often among the state’s highest achieving districts based on test scores and graduation rates.

It’s that high-performing status that is keeping the enrollment from not decreasing even more, Grip said.

“Looking at it implicitly, people want to move here,” Grip said. “It’s the schools and the area that draws residents here in the first place. It’s just that the projections, right now, are showing an overall decrease in childbirths and housing occupancy.”

Grip’s report states that 87.9 percent of the township is covered by the Highlands Act, which can limit residential building opportunities.

“It is important to note that a factor that could change the projections is a great in-migration of children from other communities which typically can occur based on home sales and housing starts,” said district Superintendent Jeff Mohre, in a message preceding Grip’s presentation. “Here in Washington Township, the former is more realistic as future housing development is quite limited.”

But the report also goes on to say that 12 new housing units could be established at the Estates of Long Valley, and the township’s agreement with the state’s affordable housing department (formerly COAH), could yield 201 new units by 2018, two school years beyond Grip’s projections.

The effects the projections will have, if they come to fruition, could have impact on future budgets and which districts send students to which schools within the township.

“The Board of Education and Administration will use the data compiled and presented by Dr. Grip as a planning tool as it continues to ensure quality education and fiscal responsibility,” Mohre said.

The full presentation can be viewed at wtschools.org.

Give a Hoot December 28, 2011 at 08:23 PM
Roger, where was it you went to school? If YOU are a representative of overcrowded classrooms, I can assure you that no one wants a part of that! Its amazing that you can complain about paying $6660.35 in taxes and most other residents in town pay much more that you. People move to this beautiful place for the schools and help bring property values up so when you decide to sell that estate, you can take all that equity and move to a place that you fit in better.
Domino December 28, 2011 at 09:57 PM
Jeff Koch: Your paper has received an "F". Please re-check your work, correct the spelling and grammatical errors and resubmit. I will average the two scores and this will be your final grade.
Just Sayin' December 28, 2011 at 11:50 PM
Our schools are not what they once were for the average child. Our scores have been dropping and we (LVMS) have been on the State's "list" for not meeting the NJASK scores . Throwing money at education is not the answer, if it were then the state's Abbott districts would be on the top of the "score board"! Strong schools come first from parents who invest their time to be involved in their childs' education and make it a priority in their day to day lives. Next we need strong leadership in our schools, starting with the BOE. They select the administrators, set the overall goals and of course how our taxes are allocated to meet the goals of our schools. BTW, excellence in education should be in our schools (BOE) mission statement, but it is not. HELLO!! The BOE would have an easier time making tough decisions if the populous would be demanding it then BACKING THEM, however I'll say it again and again, NO ONE GOES TO THE MEETINGS OR WRITES LETTERS ETC. The only folks who the BOE hears from on a regular basis are the Administrators and the Teachers whom out number the 9 BOE members!! Name calling gets you no where, in fact it hurts whichever side of the fence you are on and further motivates the opposite side.
Just Sayin' December 29, 2011 at 12:17 AM
FYI - Flocktown- Kossman schools are 2 buildings but share administration, they have a Principal, Asst. Principal and 3 administrative assistants. They have 27 Classroom teachers (preK - 5), 33 "specials" positions (art, music, spanish, health, nurses, child study team, psychologists, social workers etc), 7 Custodians and 21 Aids (part time) A few of the "specials" do go to the other elementary schools.
Beach Mover December 29, 2011 at 06:08 PM
Leta you make some very eye opening points. You say our schools and test results are not what they once were. We have more space and "better" teaching conditions then before BAC was opened. What happened?
RGJ December 29, 2011 at 08:19 PM
I'll spike this one and say our scores were better. Can't even guess what the story is there. Demographics change in English as a second language? Larger concentrated teacher departments share more and are higher quality? A bunch of savvy veteran teachers quit? Or the physical plant and space just doesn't matter and it is chance? Five years ago the quality solution of the Abbott districts was all about overcrowding and bricks and mortar. That was "solved" for billions, and...no improvement, and you don't hear much about that anymore....
Just Sayin' December 29, 2011 at 10:00 PM
There are many possible reasons for the change, but it still comes back to what the public/parents demand of our schools. If only a few folks want to see change, it is a very, very frustrating battle to improve our schools as others have said on this blog. Bottom line, IF a school is closed, it certainly SHOULD NOT result in less services for our children and it SHOULD NOT increase class sizes above what most parents are comfortable with. We should also be very, VERY concerned about what is happening or could happen with our Regional High School district. The Chesters and Mendhams are awake, but I think LV folks are still sleeping.
roger freiday December 29, 2011 at 11:54 PM
It is not what the ''public'' demands it is what the ''mommies and daddies' want that drives this insane ''public schools'' cartel. So what if we close a school? This is the dis -connect from the ''parents'' who have this inbred idea that somehow the 'board of ed'' is looking out for their progeny. NO WAY- the Board of Ed is looking out for ONE THING ! extend their cradle to grave benefits, cushy retirement, and over staffed schools, and never forget ''it's FOR THE CHILDREN'' gag me. If the teachers coud divorce themselves from th NJEA ( the worst ''pac' ever) then then MIGHT be supported by the destitute, impoverished electorate.
Beach Mover December 30, 2011 at 12:45 PM
Mr Give a Hoot you say Mr Freiday should be glad he pays "only" $6660.35 in property taxes that is about $5.31 per square foot. Let say pick a larger house on Kim Lane for instance, they pay only $3.75 per sq ft. If a house on Kim Lane was paying the same as Mr Freiday they would be paying they might be paying about $21,500 or more. Kim Lane was just a random street I picked I am sure there are many streets simaliar in Long valley.
Beach Mover December 30, 2011 at 01:31 PM
Domino, Smart phone typing,auto correct sorry. Any response to my points?
roger freiday December 30, 2011 at 01:32 PM
Mr. Koch has good info indeed. Of course, my ''per sq ft'' rate must be high because of all those extras I get from Long Valley - like NO snow plowing, NO garbage pickup - NO road maintenance, NO ANYTHING (except those property value boosting SCHOOLS). What we DO GET is the bozos in the so-called ''Planning dept'' and the even MORE inept ''board of adjustment'' approving sub-standard lots for home speculators. The beauty of this is, the TAXES go to the Township and DIDDLEY S--T comes back to us on Jones lane ! and that also pertains to the damage to our road that WE PAVED with OUR MONEY, and the additional water run-off that contributes to FLOODS ! According to the tax office ''our lack of services'' is figured into our assessment ! HAHAHAHAHa Let me also venture the fact that there is NO WORSE ROAD in the whole area than ''upper'' Fairview ave. Another ''perc'' we get to enhance the screwing from the tax assessor.
Angelo December 30, 2011 at 01:38 PM
Leta said, "We should also be very, VERY concerned about what is happening or could happen with our Regional High School district. The Chesters and Mendhams are awake, but I think LV folks are still sleeping." Thank you for bringing this up....it is so true. We are talking about the possibility of a DOUBLING of our school taxes. I do think the Mayor Short has been quite involved but the residents not so much.
WTHeck December 30, 2011 at 02:21 PM
The reason for the test scores dropping in recent years is due to the WASTE of time and money put into the "Everyday Math" Program. School districts across the country are dropping that program like crazy due to a drop off in math scores. Neighboring Mt. Olive School District just did away with the plan. Parents have been fighing this program to be removed since the test scores have dropped, yet the BOE, superintendent and anyone else refuse admit they were wrong choosing such an inadequate, inefficent and highly expensive program. The entire school system needs an overhaul. After reading all the comments above, it is quite apparent. There is a lack of communication between the school board and its residents. There is a lack of communication between the schools and the parents. (When a bus crashed two years ago on Naughright, the parents of the children weren't informed until late in the day! Why? - Okay, we lost power, but don't we have the Honeywell Instant Alert for situations like this?) I know this school system is a tad better at other things than some of the surrounding schools; however, they really need to wake up with this Everyday Math and go back to old school or something. I'm sure hundreds of parents agree.
Give a Hoot December 30, 2011 at 03:14 PM
Aaah Jeff, you forgot to add the land value in, no one on Kim lane has 3 ACRES, but when you add that value in I am sure the value and tax rate all equal out? Don't you pay double what Freiday does for 1000 sq ft more and 1 more acre?
Beach Mover December 30, 2011 at 03:32 PM
Thank you for making my point Mr Give a Hoot! Sometimes we say things that we do not see!!
Beach Mover December 30, 2011 at 09:27 PM
Why does a anonymous post demeaning how much a person pays in property taxes stay up and other much less controversial post get spiked? Very unfair.
roger freiday December 31, 2011 at 02:16 AM
ah yes, demeaning posts live on, because it is the refuge of the tiny mind and ill-informed! Remember ONE THING, me. I do not care ONE TINY BIT what ANYONE thinks of me ! I am not here to pander to your agenda, or kiss up to the ''rules''. The people that want schools to be THEIR idea of Nirvana will denigrate anyone that does not adhere to their (or NJEA) rules of decorum ! It is WAY overdue for the beat up, taxpaying, prostrated citizens to put it to the NJEA, the ''Board of Ed'' and the self serving teachers and administrators. I ask, WHEN will our elected Committee, and Mayor, get the spunk to push for accountabilty on schools and the physical plant(s) You can break it down, you can deliniate students against population growth or decline, but as long as the AUTONOMOUS board of ''education'' can operate with impunity (and they DO JUST THAT) what is the answer? CHANGE the RULES and let the TAXED , decide what they are willing to get screwed for ! The Board of ''Education'' is the ENEMY of common sense and needs to be re-visited !
Beach Mover December 31, 2011 at 02:24 PM
So strange to have a conversation with a person who calls themselves “Mr Give a Hoot be that as it may. I actually pay less per square foot then the people on Kim Lane. You forgot to add the Carriage house into the value of the property (not sure if you know how many square feet that is). But nobody’s perfect!
RGJ December 31, 2011 at 05:52 PM
Since everyone votes on BOE budgets, taxpayers have a voice. Whether spending goes for a baseball team or a computer lab should be up to the BOE and admin once they have a budget. There are caps now and that is great, but when you have situations like ours, and Newark's, where there have been precipitious enrollment drops, a 2 percent budget cap needs to be revisited.
roger freiday December 31, 2011 at 08:04 PM
the vote on BOE budgets, is about as effective as aspirin for pnuemonia. If it's defeated, the reductions are never substantial, and the whole thing can be usurped by the ''authorities'' at a higher level. Me, I want to see ZERO as a cap, or in our case, with a lot fewer students, how about MINUS something, just for ONCE !
RGJ January 01, 2012 at 05:20 PM
HNY, Dave. Well, if you want to talk what it SHOULD be....:-)...then 2 percent is just institutionalizing the current inefficient structure. And when I say inefficient structure I don't mean to focus on the Long Valleys and Mendhams, where we test well as far as what the state demands (little), but the Newarks and Camdens, where 80 percent of the kids don't graduate and the cost is double ours per student. A "cap" basically blesses the whole existing system as acceptable. It is a stopgap measure and Christie is to be commended, tho. An interesting exercise would be to go back in time to our highest enrollment, see what our scores were (I believe as high or higher), calculate what our gross per pupil cost was then (budget divided by students), run that number through an inflation calculator, and see how the current budget compares. I would guess it would look like something closer to $35 mil than $40 mil.
Beach Mover January 02, 2012 at 02:33 PM
These are all very good thought. However the BOE has to at least put it in agenda and discuss. It is hard to see how anything will change when you look at last years budget request. The Administartion projected down 109 students (Not sure if it came in higher or lower). But, in the budget the called for anywhere between 4 and 10 new people (very hard to get staright answer). I also wonder if thewre are 2 less bus drivers and 2 less buse's?
wt-taxpayer January 02, 2012 at 04:33 PM
I really like Mr. Johnson's ideas - a statewide mandate and statewide cap - putting a $14K/pupil will bring into clear focus where pupil usage vs overhead. Can this twp. survive on a mere $14K per pupil with 2 school boards to pay for? gosh! you can get a really top-notch private school education on that $.... sounds like it should be more than enough without cutting actual educational programs and services. If we combined that with closing/consolidating buildings, as the need arises, maybe we could all afford to live here (if we choose to) after our houses are paid off - utopia! ok - so, where's the hang-up? maybe the NJEA?
roger freiday January 02, 2012 at 05:31 PM
Some good ideas from diverse sources. As far as the ''hang-up'' it never varies, the Board of Ed. (almost all members are parents with children or ''educators'') and the NJEA (New Jersey Extraction Assoc) BUT, maybe $14k per, is too much, after all we are used to the current bloated top-heavy and innefficient ''exclusive club'' called ''public schools''. Assuming that 14 K is enough, and giving them that option, you also may as well ask if your dog really wants ALL that hamburger - - Another great thing would be to REMOVE AUTONOMY from the Board of Ed, and make them responsible directly to the taxpayer and Twp. governing body.
La Quin January 03, 2012 at 03:40 PM
The idea of running the schools like a bsns and doing an audit it GREAT as is removing autonomy. Yes we will be totally '#*$#' by the split of the highschools... .. biggest problem in this town is no one is willing to stand up and say 'Yes, our schools have some major issues'. I get slammed for homeschooling because people are insulted i actually think i know what is best for my child and am doing something about it. This town is very much a follow the leader and question nothing town. It is what is destroying it. We need to make changes to this town by questioning things, changing things, and rocking the boat. .. yes, Mr. di Battista was very nice, he was even a bit forward thinking but the school board wouldn't listen to him when he wanted to change things. it's time we acknowledge that times have changed and look at inclusion of charter schools, and homeschoolers into our 'activities' (have you looked at the acceptance rate of homeschoolers into ivy league schools, and homeschooler AP scores vs. our high schools?) .. want to improve our schools? look at the most successful demographic of high school students and do what they do .. think outside the box. then roll that down to the middle and elementary school. - leaders are not made by following blindly they are made by thinking independently.
Claire January 08, 2012 at 12:25 AM
There are only a few Mendham "folks" trashing LV ... from what i've seen at sport events, many Mendham students are poorly behaved, arguing with refs, complaining about calls, getting thrown off the field by refs for poor behavior ... just like their parents, always/only wanting for themselves. I am proud that my student is not behaving like that on the court/field. maybe you should think about who you are listening to.
Gavin Leslie January 09, 2012 at 05:41 PM
The next BOE meeting is Tuesday, Jan 10, 7:30pm LVMS. I have asked the Board to explain their process with regard to the Demographic Study. The main points of my letter, below. To: Mr Michael Rec, President of the Board of Education The conclusions of the study raise significant questions. Will Washington Township have too many schools for the number of students in the school district? In fact, do we have too many schools today? The demographic study projects a steady fall in the number of students in our schools. The last demographic study commissioned by the Board projected steadily rising student enrollment, for which we built the Benedict A. Cucinella school. In fact there has been a steady fall. The obvious decision facing our community is whether we should close a school. An open debate is called for and the case for reducing/maintaining the current number is needed as part of the next budget proposal. This is a complex question for the community and a transparent process is needed. Projections can be inaccurate and we held a referendum in 2003 when the projections indicated the need for a new school. We now need to make a decision and take action based on the latest projections. What process does the Board of Education propose to follow in order to lay out all the options for the community and will the Board hold a referendum to decide the future of our schools?
wt-taxpayer January 09, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Mr. Leslie is exceptionally intuitive in bringing major points to the BOE. Transparancy and allowing the public to scrutanize the data is important and declsions need to be made via referendum if ANY additional tax dollars are involved. Frankly, it seems that a study should be done outside the perview and jurisdiction of the BOE or include county and twp. govt. and/or regional voices because on their own they have such a stake in keeping the status quo.
RGJ January 09, 2012 at 10:28 PM
I wish you well. There isn't any point, really, of a debate, if parents can understand that given the state caps on school spending, disproportionate overhead means cuts to programs and quality. That should make everyone -- tax hawks and parents -- support the mothballing of one school immediately. I don't think we should be selling off properties just yet, because the problem with a cohort study is....well, we found out what the problem with a cohort study is in 2003. That said, enrollment is going to drop significantly for a few years, that is baked in the cake, and we are already on the brink of the appropriate action point to mothball a school. It is a compromise that will leave future options open and lower overhead immediately. And while these ideas for adding pre-K or converting to a community center, etc, are nice, this isn't a lottery win, it is taxpayers' money. Return it to the taxpayers. With the Highlands and zero ratable growth for the next....err...ever....property taxes are going to be steadily outpacing our neighboring towns. That will further accelerate the attractiveness or ability of young families to move here....I don't think the study even factored that reality in. Dr. Mohre quickly points out that the study could be erring on the low side....but he neglects to say it may be erring on the high side as well.
Gavin Leslie January 09, 2012 at 10:46 PM
@RGJ I agree that mothballing a school is an option that gives us future flexibility. I included it in the full text of my letter to the BOE. Your point about the property tax and its deterrant effect on any influx of young families are well made and add emphasis to the study's findings.

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