The West Hartford School Board received the capital improvement plan at Tuesday night’s meeting and also heard a presentation on enrollment.
By Ronni Newton
The West Hartford School Board took the first official steps in reviewing its budget for the upcoming fiscal year Tuesday evening with a discussion of the capital improvement plan and enrollment projections.
“This begins our formal budget process for the year,” said Deputy Superintendent Andy Morrow, who presented the proposed PAC to the board, along with a summary of work done over the past fiscal year.
Shipping and other supply chain delays impacted some of the projects the district had hoped to complete for a short time in the summer of 2021 – roughly the two-month period from June 20 to August 20. when the students are not in the building,” Morrow said, and there is a very ambitious plan for work to be completed this summer.
Last year, the School Board adopted a RIC of $6,734,000 for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, which was adopted by the municipal council without modification.
The proposal for the 2022-2023 fiscal year is $11,821,000 – with significant additions of $3,093,000 for the first year of a 15-year program to improve air quality in nine of 11 schools city basics that currently lack building-wide fresh air handling and air conditioning systems, as well as a one-year addition of $3,000,000 for the replacement of 24 tennis courts. high school tennis.
The proposed PTC for fiscal year 2023-2024 is $9,111,000.
Duffy Elementary School, which is two stories tall and features the original windows, many of which do not open, and the ventilation system dating from when it was built in the 1950s, will be the first to receive the upgrades, which will be made over two summers starting this year.
It is estimated that the cost of air quality improvements in elementary schools will increase slightly each year as the project progresses.
The existing tennis courts at Conard and Hall, which are approximately 25 years old, are at the end of their life and will be completely rebuilt using a new technology: post-tensioned concrete. The project, which is a collaboration with the city, Superintendent Tom Moore said, will include new outdoor fencing and netting. “There’s a 20-year warranty and we expect them to last 30 years,” he said.
Plant and facilities manager Bob Palmer said that in addition to COVID-related issues, a few projects that were due for completion last summer had to be postponed for other reasons. These include the installation of an air-handling system at King Philip Middle School and the renovation of the culinary kitchen at Hall Secondary School, both of which have been delayed due to design issues. . Replacement of bleachers on the visitor side of Conard High School stadium and Wolcott Elementary School playground equipment, as well as renovations to the Hall and King Philip stage and auditorium, have however been postponed to this summer due to supply chain delays. .
Finance and Planning Director Liz Hewitt said funds for projects included in the CIP — most of which are funded by bonds sold by the city — are allocated in the year for which they are allocated. The funds remain available even if the projects have to be postponed and do not impact the CIP in the following years.
Many projects included in the CIP are carried out on a cyclical basis – such as paving, replacement of flooring and roofing and new boilers. “We have excellent buildings that in some cases are approaching 100 years old…that we have to take care of to maintain them,” Moore said.
The CIP will be adopted at the Board of Education meeting on February 1. Tuesday’s presentation is available in PDF below.
In addition to reviewing the CIP, the board received a report from Chip Ward, who retired from West Hartford Public Schools as Director of Finance and Planning several years ago, but is hired every year to provide enrollment projections.
Ward has been projecting West Hartford public school enrollment for more than 20 years, and looking at birth trends and “cohort survival rate (CSR),” Ward continues to project a gradual decline in overall enrollment with a adequate capacity in all schools. buildings.
As of October 1, 2021, West Hartford Public Schools had 8,787 enrolled K-12 students. Ward estimates 8,633 students on October 1, 2022, down from 154.
Enrollment estimating factors include the number of births in the city – which has gradually declined from an average of 700 to 600. Families, however, often move to West Hartford when their children are ready to go to school and this is contemplated in the CSR. Other factors Ward uses to determine CSR include families choosing to send their children to private, parochial, or magnetic schools, families moving or leaving town for economic reasons, and market turnover. real estate.
“COVID-19 is another factor built into the average,” Ward told the board, and will likely end up being a clean wash. The district has seen a larger than expected loss of students for the 2020-2021 academic year, but a lower than originally expected loss for the current academic year as students return to the district.
Ward predicts that total enrollment will gradually drop to 7,944 over the next 10 years, with an average decline of 84 students per year based on the “decline in births at West Hartford since 2001 and the trend down statewide from K-12.” registrations. »
Declines in enrollment have already impacted elementary schools, and that population is expected to remain stable, fluctuating between 3,700 and 3,800 students. The decline in enrollment at college level has almost bottomed out and although it may fluctuate between King Philip and Sedgwick (Bristow has a fixed population based on a lottery) the overall population will soon stabilize and remain at around 1,800 in grades 6-8.
Declining enrollment over the next few years will have the biggest impact in high schools, Ward said.
“Enrollment at Conard will increase from 1,436 students to 1,270 students in 2027-28. Enrollment at Hall will similarly fall, from 1,434 students in 2021-22 to 1,170 in 2027-28,” he wrote in his report to Council. Depending on what happens with the birth rate, Ward said he expects a long period of stability in the district with an overall population of around 8,000.
As enrollment declines, the district reduces the number of chapters. Although there are fewer classes, Moore said, theoretically “it doesn’t mean there are fewer classes.”
Ward’s presentation, which includes detailed charts and school-level projections, is available in PDF format below.