Study projects enrollment to decline further
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Much of the committee’s focus has been on Eagle Avenue, which the committee is deciding whether to use, sell or rent, and whether there will be a need for the school in the years to come.
But according to the study, there may not be a need to keep Eagle Avenue open. Between now and 2014, Townley said, enrollment is projected to continue to decline. Enrollment at the two elementary schools is expected to decline by 29 students (3.4 percent), and at the high school, by 67 students (7.8 percent). Townley noted, however, that enrollment at West Hempstead Middle School is projected to increase by 13 students (2.8 percent).
If Eagle Avenue is kept open, it would have to be accessible to those with disabilities. That, Hogan said, could cost the district. “Eagle Avenue would certainly cost money to bring up to speed,” he said.
“Western Suffolk BOCES has been involved in demographic studies since 1985, and have done over 800 studies throughout New York state,” Townley said. “We’ve looked at the demographics and enrollment trends here. Your [enrollment] has decreased, but not at the level we’ve seen in other places.”
Townley said that the decline could continue until 2021. The study projects that the district’s total enrollment —which is currently 2,144 — could drop to 2,008.
Of the decline from 2005 to 2011, Rosalie Norton, president of the West Hempstead Community Support Association, asked, “Does that take into account Island Park [students], or is it strictly students within West Hempstead?”
Townley said that the figure includes Island Park students, who have attended WHHS since 1969. Island Park high school students can choose to attend WHHS or Long Beach High School.
“The decrease has to do with fewer children being born,” Townley explained, “and fewer houses being sold.”
According to Townley, in 1990 there were nearly 40,000 births on Long Island, but only 32,000 in 2010. And in the West Hempstead district, births declined from 236 in 2002 to 168 in 2010.
Housing sales have plummeted across Long Island, she added, with home values decreasing. In 2004 in West Hempstead, 226 units were sold, compared with just 87 in 2010. The total number of occupied housing units also decreased, from 5,530 in 1990 to 5,353 in 2010.