Princeton school district officials have set a special public meeting on Feb. 27 to discuss the demographic projections prepared by the district’s planning consultants, which were released at a forum last month.
A representative from consultants Milone & MacBroom will be on hand for the 7 p.m. meeting that is scheduled to be held in the conference room at the Princeton Public Schools district office at 25 Valley Road.
Milone & MacBroom was hired by the the school district in September 2019 to help puzzle out how to accommodate the anticipated influx of students who are expected to enroll in the next few years.
At the Jan. 25 forum, the consultant concluded that enrollment in the Princeton Public Schools would climb from the current enrollment of 3,855 students to nearly 4,400 students in 10 years.
The enrollment projections were based partly on the number of children who are expected to live in new multi-family housing developments that are expected to be constructed in the next few years.
Nevetheless, some community members have questioned how Milone & MacBroom arrived at its enrollment projections – and that is why school district officials have scheduled the meeting.
“(The meeting) will focus on answering questions regarding the factors and formulas used to project enrollment growth in our schools,” Superintendent of Schools Steve Cochrane wrote in a letter posted on the school district website at www.princetonk12.org.
Milone & MacBroom will issue a revised set of PowerPoint slides outlining the current state of school facilities and the projections for future growth in advance of the Feb. 27 meeting, Cochrane wrote. It will be posted on the school district website.
“The slides will contain updated data and also address some of the questions raised during the initial public forum on Jan. 25. We look forward to sharing the data with the public,” Cochrane wrote. He encouraged the public to visit the website at www.princetonk12.org.
Michael Zuba of Milone & MacBroom told attendees at the Jan. 25 community forum that the objective is to look several years down the road and to present a range of options to accommodate the surge in student enrollment.
It may mean additions to some schools; re-districting of the four elementary schools; or adjustments in schedules. The consultant will explore a range of options to address the short-term and long-term growth in enrollment, and present recommendations later this year.
Over the past four years, all of the schools – with the exception of the Johnson Park School – have experienced increased enrollments, project manager Rebecca Augur told attendees at the Jan. 25 meeting.
Augur said enrollment at the Riverside School went up by 26 percent and enrollment at the Littlebrook School increased by 21 percent. The Community Park School showed enrollment increases of 19 percent.
The John Witherspoon Middle School experienced an 8-percent increase in enrollment in the past four years, while Princeton High School showed a 1.5-percent increase in enrollment, Augur said.
Some of the increased enrollment was generated by multi-family developments that were built in the past few years, such as Avalon Princeton on the former Medical Center of Princeton site on Witherspoon Street; Copperwood in Princeton, on Bunn Drive; and Merwick-Stanworth on Bayard Lane. They each contain a mix of market rate and affordable housing units.
The Municipality of Princeton’s recent settlement with the Fair Share Housing Center, which sued the town over its lack of affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households, is expected to bring additional students into the Princeton Public Schools.
As a result of the settlement, it is expected that 880 units will be built by 2027. Some of the units will be market rate units, and others will be set aside for low- and moderate-income households. Some will be age-restricted developments, which will not include school-aged children.
Five of the eight anticipated housing developments will likely generate students in the Littlebrook School zone. The rest of the developments would be in the Riverside School and Community Park school zones. All are grades K-5 schools.
The Community Park, Johnson Park and Riverside elementary schools would likely not experience overcrowding at any point in the next 10 years, but the Littlebrook School already exceeds its capacity of 392 students and will continue to absorb more students.
The John Witherspoon Middle School and Princeton High School could exceed capacity over the long term. The middle school has a capacity of 628 students in grades 6-8, and the high school has a capacity of 1,544 students.