Touching on a number of topics earlier this week, the Oysterponds school board decided to seek help in developing a five-year enrollment projection, move forward with facility improvements and schedule monthly community meetings.
During the board’s regular meeting in Orient Tuesday, Superintendent Dick Malone recommended creating a committee to project student enrollment by gathering information from local hospitals, Southold Town and Suffolk County. The committee will also develop potential solutions if projections forecast dwindling student enrollment.
“I think we should start looking at what those options should be with the changing enrollment,” Mr. Malone said.
The district is also considering projecting its financial position over the next five years, as well as finalizing a five-year employment contract with its teachers and a tuition agreement with Greenport for that same period. Oysterponds offers preschool through sixth-grade for East Marion and Orient residents and sends its secondary students to Greenport.
Mr. Malone said the district has 173 enrolled students, 85 at the elementary level and 88 attending Greenport. The district’s newly created preschool program has seven students.
Last year there were 157 students in the district, 84 elementary and 73 secondary. Although student enrollment is up this year, the district has experienced a downward trend over the past few years.
While 2010 census data shows a total district population of 1,669 — an increase of 204 since 2000 — school district numbers show student enrollment has decreased by nearly 12 percent over the past three years.
The Oysterponds student enrollment projection committee will comprise school staff and school board members. Board vice president Janice Caufield volunteered to join the committee, and the board also agreed to ask member Linda Goldsmith, absent from Tuesday’s meeting, to join.
The committee report is due by the board’s Dec. 18 meeting, Mr. Malone said.
In addition to tackling student enrollment, the school board authorized various facility improvement projects.
The district has purchased a video intercom and door release system to improve student safety and plans to install new flooring in the school’s main lobby. In addition, the district will purchase two water bottle filling stations, a new version of the traditional water fountain.
Mr. Malone also announced details of upcoming public meetings featuring discussions to keep the community informed about the district’s vision. Topics will include core curriculum; the school’s science, technology, engineering and math program, known as STEM; reading and writing; learning with iPads; and early childhood education.
In addition, Mr. Malone said, “I think the community should come into the school during the day to actually see the children. It’s one thing for [Oysterponds principal Francoise Wittenburg] and I to talk about the program, but I think there’s a greater value when people come in and actually see the children in the program.”
Orient resident and former Oysterponds school board president Walter Strohmeyer said during the meeting he’s pleased with the community meetings plan.
“I wanted to have something like that years ago,” he said.
The first meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 11, at 10 a.m.