Catastrophic Collapse of New Rochelle Schools’ Student Enrollment Accelerates; Below 10,000 for First Time in a Decade

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — In April 2021, we published the first in a series of detailed analysis by Robert Cox and Andrew Newman of what we characterized as a “catastrophic collapse” of student enrollment in City School District of New Rochelle schools.

Catastrophic Collapse of New Rochelle Schools’ Student Enrollment Underway

A preview of 2022 data, presented last week by a demographer from Western Suffolk BOCES to the New Rochelle Board of Education shows, as we predicted, the downward trend has accelerated, as it has done every year since the baseline study year of 2015 published in 2017. The full report is expected to be released by March 2022.

What we wrote 9 months ago remains true:

The implication of these collapsing enrollment numbers are profound and require measures be taken now to plan for a student population that is projected to be nearly 20% lower than initial projections, from a projected peak of 10,996 in 2019 in the 2015 study to a projected trough of 8,972 in 2030 in the 2020-21 update, a drop of 2,024 students or 18.4%.

This will require a discussion of reduction in headcount among employees of the City School District of New Rochelle, and identifying new sources of revenue to make up for less money coming in through sources like state aid formulas and federal funds like Title I funding.

An even more difficult discussion will be the issue of the Perception of Quality issue suggested by the data which shows an acceleration in the rate of decline in the Western Suffolk BOCES projections which indicate there is some factor outside the Cohort Survival Model which only looks at the normal community processes that affect school enrollment measured by hard data such as births and fertility rates, community migration, enrollment in non-public and charter school, population variations, and resident family characteristics — and ignores soft data like why some public school parents are pulling their children out of the public school system after 8th grade, and other factors.

The trend, improbably bouncing along at the bottom of the 4% margin range every year, is worse — that by 2030 student enrollment will be below 8,000 students (a decline of over 25% from the peak in 2015).

It also remains true that school board members seem determined to put their heads in the sand. Their public questions and statements over the past year continue to amount to “wishing and hoping” that somehow the data is in error. They have questioned whether the data takes into account downtown development (it does), immigration (it does), the impact of the pandemic (it does) or whether Western Suffolk BOCES is a reliable source (they are).

We will have more on this disaster once the full report is released to the public but if there are any board members interested to accept reality and start asking productive questions we have a few suggestions:

For Western Suffolk BOCES

Why should the district place a high degree of confidence in student enrollment projections made by Western Suffolk BOCES?

Who are your peers/competitors, in both the public and private sectors, and should the district seek a second opinion on student enrollment projections?

Does the decline in student population in New Rochelle mirror declines elsewhere in Westchester, the Hudson Valley Region, New York State? Is it the same, higher or lower?

If the decline in student population in New Rochelle is faster/steeper than comparable districts in the state (which appears to be the case) what localized factors might explain the difference in rate of decline?

Western Suffolk BOCES enrollment projections for New Rochelle are always at the low end of the 4% margin of error, why? Should the actual numbers randomly move within the margin of error not always be at the bottom of the range?

If the trend of hitting the low end of the Western Suffolk BOCES range each year continues, what would the projected student enrollment be in 2030?

Does Western Suffolk BOCES project student populations by socio-economic factors? Is the student population of New Rochelle becoming more or less upper income or lower income?

For New Rochelle School Administration

What are the implications of Western Suffolk BOCES enrollment projections on the District’s current 5 year plan?

What are the implications of Western Suffolk BOCES enrollment projections on the 2022-2023 school budget?

What are the implications on local property taxes, near term (2022-23) and out to 2030?

With a roughly 10% actual decline in student population since the peak in 2015 — and a projected decline from the peak of 26% out to 2030 (10,800 in 2015 to 8,000 in 2030), are you contemplating staff count reduction between now and 2030, if so how would that occur —job attrition (fewer positions eliminated for highly paid employees) or pink slips (more positions eliminated for lower paid employees)?

What has been (2015 – 2021) and will be (2022 – 2030) the impact on Foundation Aid? For purposes of planning, what would a straight line projection be of Foundation Aid based on the projected student enrollment out to 2030?

What positions are mandated (special education, physical education, school nurses, etc.)?

If positions overall are declining and the District cannot eliminate mandated positions, what positions will be reduced in different departments (social studies, english, math) different grades (pre-K to 5, 6 to 8, 9 to 12, other)? different schools?

What has been (2015 – 2021) and will be (2022 – 2030) the impact on Transportation Aid? For purposes of planning, what would a straight line projection be of Transportation Aid based on the projected student enrollment out to 2030?

What is the implication for food services?

What is the implication for the ESSA consolidated grants Title I, II, III and IV?

What are the implications for other State Aid and Federal Aid?

How will any gaps in State and/or Federal Aid be closed — increased revenue (i.e., local property taxes, fees, etc.) or decreased expenses (i.e, FTE reduction, program elimination, etc.)?

What are the implications of Western Suffolk BOCES enrollment projections on the District’s current 5 year facilities plan?

If buildings are to be closed, is there a plan to redistrict and/or consolidate districts— a highly contentious, long term effort involving a high degree of community input? Will schools be closed (mothballed, leased, sold)? Will you hedge in case the downward trends in student enrollment flattens or is reversed? (see, “What About Barnard?”)

How will decisions be made on closing schools and/or consolidating districts? Is there a grand plan? Who is in charge of that plan? Is there a retrenchment committee and who is on it?

Will repairs identified in the ongoing 2022 Building Condition Survey be made to schools that will be closed?

If we come up with other questions we will add them.


OPEN LETTER: New Rochelle Board of Education

Past time to deal with the reality of collapse in student enrollment

Since Western Suffolk BOCES began providing student enrollment projections in 2017, I have heard mostly silence or magical thinking from school board members on the collapse in student enrollment.

It is shocking, disturbing and — most importantly— a dereliction of duty for a school board member to out their heads in the sand.

Questions and comments over the past few years are mostly about why the data might be wrong (immigration, development, COVID, etc.).

I have yet to hear a sustained, meaningful discussion at the board level predicated on the WSBOCES projections being accurate.

The link above contains a link to a detailed analysis from 2021 and a set of questions at the bottom that any of you might consider asking when Nancy Fischetti next presents.

The WSBOCES have been accurate to date. You are dealing with a 9.6% decline in student enrollment from the 2015 peak and by 2030 a 26% decline off the 2015. I cannot tell if its that none of you understand how dire the situation is for the district or do not care — and are happy to drive off the cliff together — but the list of questions I have linked above should be a starting point for an energetic response from any board member interested to act on the slow motion train wreck that is student enrollment. You are past time running out. It has been happening for more than 5 years.

Feel free to call with any question about the article I have published or the questions linked above.

Thank you.

Robert Cox

11 thoughts on “Catastrophic Collapse of New Rochelle Schools’ Student Enrollment Accelerates; Below 10,000 for First Time in a Decade”

  1. A New York Times article from August 8, 1981 documents the major school reorganization plan in New Rochelle that resulted in the closing of 3 elementary schools (Stephenson, Mayflower, and Roosevelt). The article also mentions Barnard on the closure list, but Barnard did not meet the same fate as the others. According to the article, the school district faced a catastrophic collapse of the student population. In 1970 the combined enrollment at Stephenson, Mayflower, and Roosevelt stood at 2,037 in 1970 and by 1981 the enrollment dropped down to 926 (a loss of 1011 students just between the four schools). The article does not mention the enrollment drops at other schools, but it appears losses happened at other schools as well because the receiving schools (Trinity, Davis, and Ward) had capacity to accommodate the additional students. At the time the school district had the “luxury” of picking one school from each area of the city to close, so they could minimize the appearance of favoritism (Stephenson – south end, Mayflower – central, Roosevelt – north end).

    It appears that the current BOCES demographic study could justify the closing of an additional elementary school. The Board of Eduction must make some tough decisions in the not too distant future.

  2. In 2019 the CSDNR conducted a residency audit. How many non-resident students did the CSDNR remove from the enrollment as the result of the audit? Did those removals play a role in accelerating the downward enrollment trend?

    Additionally, back in the early 1980’s I remember that the CSDNR faced a similar plunge in enrollment. If memory serves me correctly the district shut down and sold 3 elementary schools (Stephenson, Mayflower, and Roosevelt). Then years later the enrollment increased and the district had to expand at least one elementary school (Trinity). Did that experience back in the 1980’s produce any “lessons learned” that can help build plans around the current enrollment plunge?

  3. I think the school district needs to at least take a look at this report and start to think about impact.

    I do concur with the person who stated new Rochelle is no longer attracting families or to be more precise families who are interested in using the public education system.

    I’ve been hearing at BOE meetings that they were waiting on this assessment let’s see what they do with the data

    1. Why is it that readers are offering up their own uninformed personal made-up theories or, in this case, commenting on what they think about some other person’s uninformed made-up theories instead of (a) reading the actual reports that go back to 2017 and have been updated since; (b) reading our detailed analysis of the reports.

      As for what you claim you HEARD at BOE meetings — which you did not hear — the first enrollment projections were presented by Western Suffolk BOCES in 2017 and have been updated repeatedly ever since. So, they are not “waiting” on any assessment! They have been getting these assessments for FIVE YEARS!!!

      We already know “what they do with the data”. Nada. That is the entire point of this article which you obviously did not read.

      It is worrisome to me that I have readers who are so stupid. Jeez.

  4. With all the on again off again status of lesrning in NR pu lic schools, the city also has to contend with the number of private and parochial schools in the city. You have Ursuline High for girls and Iona Prep and Westchester Catholic for boys along with lower schools and some others in Larvhmont, Scarsdale ND White Plains. THEN New Rochelle is attracting many people in its new towers of apartments that are people without children. All of that plus the fact that people have moved out who have children weighs heavily on enrollment.

    1. I suggest you read the report or at least the detailed analysis I published last year.

      The impact of downtown development is factored into the report.

      The schools you mention have been operating for a century so no their existence does not explain an enrollment decline since 2015.

      That people move in or out of New Rochelle is likewise not a new phenomenon.

  5. Nrhs has become way too multicultural. So now you have everything that comes with multiculturalism and diversity. Murders, rapes,assaults, drugs, prostitution, etc. U show me a diverse area and crime stats will show an increase in all these areas. So now people who don’t like diversity and multiculturalism are pulling there kids out of the schools or moving away. Simple cause and effect. Now let’s see how much non diverse non multicultural schools have grown or shrunk to test the theory. Get on that bob and do a compare/contrast of southern Westchester school population trends to northern Westchester/private school population trends.

    1. The article is about enrollment projections by Western Suffolk BOCES but your comment is just made up nonsense.

      I suggest you read the report or at least the detailed analysis I published last year.

      I published another analysis in 2020 that New Rochelle is experiencing black flight not white flight so your “theories” are not only baseless but the opposite of reality.

    1. Just like the board, I see commenters offering their uninformed theories on the data rather than addressing the implications of the data for the community over the next 5-10 years.

      It is amazing to me that no one wants to deal with reality.

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