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District: Student enrollment is dropping sharply in Mattituck

With decreasing enrollment over the years — from 1,424 students in grades K-12 in 2012-13 to 1,131 in the upcoming 2017-18 school year — administrators and school board members at Mattituck-Cutchogue are looking ahead to the future with concern.

If these trends continue, the district expects to have 956 students enrolled district wide in 2021.

“We’re looking at where we see things going in terms of student enrollment, the impact on staffing and eventually the impact on programming,” superintendent Anne Smith said at Thursday’s Board of Education work session. “But right now we’re focused on staffing, budget and on translating patterns.”

Looking at these numbers, the district expects staff to decrease about 23 percent and enrollment to be down about 32 percent from 2012-13 to 2021, Kevin Coffey, school business and operations administrator, said.

He said the district hasn’t filled all of the teaching positions left vacant by recent retirees, noting 29 retirements since the 2012-13 school year to the current one.

After giving a district overview, enrollment and teaching numbers were then broken down into three groups — those at Cutchogue East Elementary, those at the Junior-Senior High School and those involved in the k-12 special education program.

Cutchogue East Elementary principal Kathy Devine said there were 547 students in general education in grades k-6 — not including those in special education classes — in the 2012-13 school year, with 50 teachers and 4 teaching assistants. Those numbers decreased to 413 students with 44 teachers and 4 teaching assistant going into the upcoming school year.

Projections for 2021 are 380 students, with 39 teachers and two teaching assistants, Ms. Devine said.

“We’ve had a [teaching assistant] in kindergarten, one in first grade, one in the library, and one in the computer labs,” Ms. Devine said. “But this year we put the two in kindergarten, and one will be in the computer labs and one will be in the library. But we’re anticipating not needing those two in the classrooms, and we would keep one in the library and one in the computer labs.”

In the high school there were 60 teaches and 708 students during the 2012-13 school year, which decreased to 49 teachers and 530 enrolled students heading into the upcoming school year, principal Shawn Petretti said.

Throughout the past few years the goal has been to bring classrooms down to more reasonable sizes while continuing to add new programs to meet student interest, he said.

“My concern going forward, well not a concern but something I have to watch is, as our sizes get smaller we still want to make sure we’re offering a wide variety of options for our students. That’s a challenge that lies ahead, we have to find creative ways to do that.”

He said athletic programs are expected to remain the same in the future, but as enrollment decreases the school will change from a Class B to a Class C designation. One concern is that with such small numbers in recent years, the North Fork might not be able to sustain the football team shared between Mattituck, Southold and Greenport much longer.

The opposite trend is happening in special education, as enrollment has increased.

In special education, there were 15 teachers and providers, 16 teaching assistants in the 2012-13 school year with 58 students. Going into the 2017-18 school year there will be 16 teachers and providers, 21 teaching assistants and 89 students.

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Photo: The Mattituck school board meeting Thursday night. (Credit: Nicole Smith)