Oysterponds superintendent Dick Malone said Tuesday night that he believes student enrollment will decrease by nearly 20 percent over the next five years.
During the regular school board meeting in Orient, over 20 people listened as Mr. Malone presented the newly formed enrollment committee’s projections for student enrollment in the preschool through sixth grade program.
According to the report, student enrollment is projected to decrease by 29 students between the 2013-14 and 2017-18 school years, from 162 students to 133.
Mr. Malone said the report, which is based on data gathered from local hospitals, Southold Town and Suffolk County, also indicates that a downward enrollment trend is occurring statewide.
School board member Thomas Gray said that, although he appreciates the committee’s effort in compiling the report, he doesn’t believe the data prove there will be a significant decrease in student enrollment in 2018.
“I’m not seeing anything that supports a 20 percent dip,” he said.
Mr. Malone said the challenge of projecting student enrollment is trying to figure out if families will move into or out of the district. He said expensive real estate and a lack of employment opportunities are the main reasons families aren’t settling in the East Marion and Orient communities and he believes the new report is needed to begin discussing the district’s dwindling enrollment.
While 2010 census data show 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 in the past three years.
Mr. Malone said the committee plans to build on the data and come up with solutions to tackle the downward enrollment trend.