Estimating the number of students who will enroll in our schools each year is a critical part of our budgeting process. We never know exactly how many students we will need to serve until we see precisely who shows up on the first day of school. The annual “enrollment projections” report helps us to make educated assessments and assumptions about what our class sizes might look like.
For many years, our wonderful volunteer consultant Ellen Essman has prepared enrollment projections for the district. She shared her 2012 assessment with the Board at our October 25 meeting. Ellen relies upon several district personnel to help her gather the data necessary for her work, including Molly Rollison, Dr. Richard’s assistant, who compiles data from each of the schools, and Mary Channing, district transportation coordinator, who compiles data concerning the pre-school population.
Among Ellen’s findings:
- 2013 enrollment is predicted to decline by 60 students; from current enrollment of 4,239 students to an estimated 4,179 students next year.
- Next year’s incoming Kindergarten class is expected to include 244 students, which is 25 students fewer than this year’s class, and 79 students fewer than this year’s senior class, which is expected to graduate 305 students. In theory, next year’s Kindergarten class would “replace” the prior year’s graduating class.
- The size of the Wilton student population has increased by 30 percent since 1983. In 1983, the district enrolled a total of 2,946 students, compared with 4,239 currently enrolled.
Based on this data, we will proceed with our budget work, confident that we have a good sense of how many students will attend our schools next year, the number of students in each grade, and the number enrolled in each school.
We are very grateful to Ellen for her hard work on this report, and for her very strong track record for accuracy.
And speaking of the budget, the Board voted unanimously to adopt the list of “budget assumptions” that were initially presented at our last meeting. As I mentioned in my last “Notes from the Board Table,” most of this year’s assumptions are similar to those used in recent years. However, this year we have added a new assumption: To ensure that the operating budget “provides the necessary resources to address the social and emotional needs of students.” This was added in response to an increase in the number of students we are seeing with needs in these areas, an unfortunate trend that is occurring on a national level.
Along those lines, Director of Finance Ken Post presented the Board with the September 2012 monthly finance report. Ken informed the Board that as of September 30, we are operating at a $411,152 deficit, due almost entirely to unanticipated special education costs. These costs resulted from unexpected student outplacements, and students who need higher levels of service than previously thought. All of these costs were incurred after our 2012-13 budget was complete, and as Ken explained, due to the nature of the special education process, none of these costs were within our control.
While the district will eventually recoup most of these costs through state reimbursements, we have imposed temporary spending freezes in several areas including textbook purchases, technology equipment replacement and technology instructional materials. Our hope is that this freeze will be lifted once we receive reimbursement from the state, typically in March.
The budget was not the only important item on our agenda. Ken Post and Director of Technology Matt Hepfer updated the Board about the town’s proposed fiber optic project. As you may be aware, Yankee Gas is planning to install natural gas lines throughout much of Wilton Center beginning next summer, presenting an opportunity to “piggyback” off that project to run conduit and fiber under the roads while they are exposed.
The purpose of the fiber would be to link the schools, the library, and the town hall complex as a way to protect the town’s data assets and ensure functionality of the town’s critical services during emergency periods. Each facility would have at least two “points of access,” so that if one entry point is disrupted, a back up would be in place to ensure continuity. In addition, the shared link would ensure critical back-up capability for all data.
Matt shared his opinion that the fiber optic plan is a “once in a lifetime opportunity,” given that Yankee Gas will be opening up the roads for the natural gas project. While the fiber optic project is estimated to cost $1.67 million, the cost would be as much as $1.3 million higher, if the roadwork needed to be done.
The town plans to conduct a public hearing on the issue. The hearing will take place on Wednesday evening, November 14 at Town Hall, Conference Room B at 7:30PM. Members of the public are encouraged to attend, and to express any thoughts they may have about the project.
Finally, the Board reviewed and approved updates to several existing policies, each of which has to do with public health. We approved changes to the district’s “health services program,” to reflect state law, which states that students will not be permitted to attend classes unless all state immunizations and health assessment requirements have been met.
We also approved changes to the district “Students/Staff with HIV, ARC (AIDS related complex), or AIDS” policy. The new policy takes into account current medical knowledge about this disease, and deletes the onerous reporting and self-identification processes that were included in the previous policy, first adopted in 1986, when the disease was not as understood as it is now. The Board approved an updated “Use of Automatic External Defibrillators (AED) policy, to ensure that staff is appropriately trained, and that the devices are accessible throughout the school buildings.
I hope you will agree that we had a busy and productive meeting. Our next meeting is scheduled for Monday, November 5 at 7pm in the Wilton High School Professional Library (please note that this deviates from our normal Thursday night meeting schedule). Among other agenda items, we will review the district’s standardized testing performance. As always, the public is welcome to attend.