Manchester School Enrollment Down (For Now)

Richard Grip, executive director of Statistical Forecasting, LLC, presents a Demographic Study of the district to the Board of Education. (Photo courtesy Manchester schools)

MANCHESTER – The number of students attending Manchester schools will be declining, until large developments get completed, according to an enrollment study ordered by the district.

The study was performed by Statistical Forecasting, LLC. Richard Grip, the firm’s executive director, presented his findings at a recent Board of Education meeting.

One of the reasons for declining enrollment is a declining birth rate for years before the children would start kindergarten, Grip explained.

The study started in the past, analyzing the historical birth rates and trends and using that info to make projections up to the 2022-2023 school year. It studied how many kids could come from a given residential property. For example, there would be far fewer children in age-restricted senior housing than in other neighborhoods. The study noted that 77 percent of the housing in Manchester is age restricted senior housing. The town’s median age is 65.1.

The following figures show the school year and the number of students. The current year is an accurate number. The rest are projections.

  • 2017-2018: 2,821
  • 2018-2019: 2,764
  • 2019-2020: 2,717
  • 2020-2021: 2,663
  • 2021-2022: 2,610
  • 2022-2023: 2,550

Broken up between grade levels, the district is expected to lose 131 elementary students, 100 middle school students, and 40 high school students from this year to 2022-2023.

Superintendent David Trethaway said in a press release that the district has seen a decrease in enrollment. The current year is down 412 students from a peak of 3,233 in 2008-9.

It’s important to know what neighborhoods have growing families in order to better prepare for the future, he said. He gave the example of how one kindergarten class was removed from Ridgeway Elementary, and one was added to Manchester Township Elementary.

This table shows the total number of seats the school has, its current enrollment, how many current empty seats, and the same information for five years from now. (Image courtesy Manchester Schools)

“We need to look at the impact over the next three, five and ten years so that we can plan for the future,” he said. “Do we need to add on or maybe build a new school? This takes long term planning. Do we need to redistribute enrollment? We need information to make these plans and decisions.”

The study also counted how many children each school building can serve. This is about seats, not class size. For example, Whiting Elementary School is near capacity now, and will be in five years. However, the middle school has 30 extra seats now, and is expected to have 130 extra in five years.

Development On The Horizon

Even though the enrollment is expected to decrease over the next few years, large developments might reverse that trend after that, the study found.

The developments included: 82 units in Autumn Ridge, 404 from Manchester Development Group, 15-20 per year in Pine Lake Park, and 519 in Presidential Gardens.

The study used 4,000 homes for the Heritage Minerals tract property. However, as it stands now, there is a settlement for 2,200 homes. The developer has only made an application to increase this to 4,000 homes last year. It still has a long way to go before it is approved, if it ever does get approved. Of the 4,000 units, the study has 1,368 of them being age restricted. Additionally, the construction was estimated – by the study – to begin in five years, and to conclude in 10 to 20 years. This would put the development well after the years of the study.

All of these developments together would yield an estimated 2,065 students. However, 1,660 would be from the larger, 4,000-unit Heritage application, after at least five years.

There was also a note stating that some development was left off because the numbers of bedrooms were unclear, or whether they would ever get built.