Milone & MacBroom Presents Findings to the Weston Board of Education

Nov 25, 2020
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WESTON — The impact of the town’s rapidly improving housing market on long-term enrollment still remains too early to predict, according to a report recently presented to the Board of Education.

Michael Zuba, of Milone and MacBroom, said despite the sharp increase in home sales seen this year enrollment projections for the school year were still close. He said enrollment was originally projected to be 2,247 students from kindergarten to 12th grade on Oct. 1, two less than the 2,249 actually reported.

“By and large they performed pretty well,” Zuba said of the projections. “I think some of the areas where we had a disconnect were really pandemic driven.”

Zuba said three models were created with a medium model projecting 2,291 students from prekindergarten to 12th grade by the 2030-31 school year. Projections for the low model and high model range from 2,126 to 2,530 students for the same time period, he said.

“I think looking long-term — greater than three, four, five years down the road — should this robust housing market continue the high projection model may be the one that proves the most accurate over that 10-year horizon,” Zuba said.

Weston has seen an influx in new residents like neighboring towns due to the thriving housing market. According to the report, the town averaged 159 sales per year between 2015 and 2019. This year the town has already sold 153 homes and is on pace to sell 214 by the end of the year, the report said.

BOE members questioned if it could be determined whether or not the increase in housing sales contributed to permanent residents. Some members further questioned how the pre-kindergarten to 12th grade enrollment is projected to go from 2,273 students this year to 2,274 students next year, despite the booming housing market.

BOE member Ruby Hedge said she feels the projection for next year is also assuming a 100 percent normalcy rate.

“Meaning in nine months from January when we set the budget, or we look at the budget, this country will be back to normal or 100 percent,” Hedge said.

BOE member Hillary Koyner said she didn’t see the impact of housing sales on the projections.

“Everything you showed us does not reflect that huge increase of home sales,” she said.

Zuba said there was not a census of who bought a house and how many children they had. He added the assumption is when home values are elevated it is the core values of Weston that are driving people to the community, which includes the schools.

“I don’t have a definitive count for each of those sales (and) how many students they yielded in your community,” he said.

A number of students also withdrew at the beginning of the school year after enrolling, Superintendent William Mckersie said. There were 29 students from pre-kindergarten through fifth grade who chose to home school, he said.

“This is a far higher number than usual,” Mckersie said. “We’re looking across Fairfield County and we’re seeing a huge uptick in homeschooling.”

He said despite this some of these students will likely return to the school district throughout the pandemic.

“My hunch is that is not a long-term homeschooling group,” Mckersie said. “My hunch is that this is a crisis group.”

But BOE Chair Tony Pesco said he doesn’t believe it’s known yet what set of projections enrollment will truly follow with the influx of new residents.

“I don’t think that shock has been absorbed into the system enough to know where within that upper or lower bounds you’re going to actually lie,” he said. “I think time will tell.”

Read the original article here.

© Westport News, 2020