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District Faces Historically High Enrollment

Henry Morjikian, Senior, Co-Sports Editor

In 1987 a gallon of gas was .89 cents, a dozen eggs were .78 cents and a first class stamp was .22 cents. In 2017, the price of gas and eggs has tripled, and no one uses stamps anymore. Nothing is the same, so it should come as no surprise to anyone that neither has student enrollment. The number of students attending Pelham’s public schools has gone up significantly. Pelham Public Schools district enrollment is currently 2,907, a 78% increase since 1987 when the district hosted 1,636 students. This is the date from which a demographic study done by Western Suffolk BOCES (Boards of Cooperative Educational Services) began. This study revealed that student enrollment in Pelham has been consistently increasing since the 1980s and will likely continue to do so; the district is addressing the matter to minimize the effects of this projected growth.

In her first few months on the job, Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ has been intensely focused on this issue. In coordination with the Board of Education, Dr. Champ has held three town hall meetings discussing solutions to the growing capacity in Pelham schools.

A lack of space is becoming a serious problem and the district is considering major changes to accommodate for the growing student population. The demographic study showed that the Hutchinson and Prospect Hill student body will increase by a section (a class), and Colonial by two sections (classes). Siwanoy is the last of the elementary schools projected to stay constant.
Colonial’s problem resides in its location. Stuffed on a residential street, Colonial is unable to build out and it’s only solution for expansion would be to purchase property.
…..Unfortunately, Siwanoy’s compliance with the law comes with a cost. Siwanoy is the only elementary not suffering from increased district enrollment. In fact, Siwanoy’s enrollment is not projected to increase, but problems reside in the fact that an addition of an elevator would eliminate learning space. The current safety regulations require an elevator in schools.

While the new bond contains money for a completely new Hutchinson school building, the Board of Education is searching for both short and long term solutions at three other elementary schools as well as the high school.

Although none of these options benefit everybody, the district has contemplated some solutions. “Music/Art on a cart”, the most expedient among them, has music and art teachers using different classrooms and carrying their supplies with them. Although quick and simple, this does not serve any long term benefits.

Limiting the number of the staff’s children, who would otherwise go to another district’s school, is another potential solution.

At the town hall meetings, the district proposed an idea that the district offices at the high school be relocated to a new property. This would make space for either eight classrooms or six classrooms and an orchestra room.

The orchestra has been practicing in the auditorium, but many school events utilize that space at the same time, making this impractical. Now, due to the worry about the growth in student enrollment, the orchestra’s cry for a personalized practice space may finally be addressed.

With the input and thoughts of all concerned, the Pelham schools system can work together to find the best possible solutions. Hopefully, a conclusion will be drawn soon in order to get ahead of this growing problem. Schools will have to be able to grow with their student bodies so the district can move on to bigger and more pressing problems, like air-conditioning.

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District Faces Historically High Enrollment