WW-P elementary enrollment predicted to fall

Teaching positions may be shifted to high schools

By: Emily Craighead
   Enrollment at West Windsor-Plainsboro’s elementary schools is expected to drop overall, allowing the district to shift three teaching positions to the high schools, according to the latest enrollment projections by the Finance Committee and building principals.
   The Finance Committee’s projections, which include potential students from the new Toll Brothers development, the Estates at Princeton Junction, set the drop at 26 students. The principals’ projections, based on rollover of current students and anticipated kindergarten enrollment, show a 146-student drop.
   "It’s a moving target and a lot of it depends on construction schedules" at the Toll Brothers development, Finance Committee Chairman Stan Katz said at Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting.
   Between last October and the coming October, 91 units at the Estates at Princeton Junction are likely to have received certificates of occupancy, Mr. Katz said. The state collects data based on actual enrollment on Oct. 15 each year.
   According to current projections, Superintendent Robert Loretan said the district could eliminate one teaching position at Dutch Neck, one at Wicoff, and one English-as-a-second-language position shared among the elementary schools. Those positions could be shifted to fill needs at the high school, Dr. Loretan said.
   "We will build a budget that gives us the flexibility to respond where appropriate," he said.
   An increase of less than 4 percent is anticipated for the 2006-2007 budget, according to district officials. A rough draft of the budget puts the increase at 5 percent.
   Tuesday’s budget presentation also addressed priorities for special-education programs in the upcoming year.
   Changes to special-education regulations under consideration by the state could force the district to lower class sizes for some special-education students and reduce to three years the age span for students in one class. Teachers might have to act as case managers for their students, taking them out of the classroom more often. Child study teams now are made up of a social worker, school psychologist and learning consultant.
   The regulations will not be voted on until July, but would go into effect in September.
   West Windsor-Plainsboro is in a better position to handle the new regulations than many districts, because of its large size and the quality of programs run by Special Services Supervisor Susan DiDonato, according to Thomas Smith, pupil services and planning director.
   Districtwide, 1,101 students are classified in the special-education program, 152 students are placed out of district, and 156 receive only speech therapy. West Windsor-Plainsboro has 10 in-district programs for special-education students.
   Board member Richard Kaye praised the quality of the district’s special-education programs, and the fact that the district is able to serve most of its special-education students within West Windsor and Plainsboro.
   "We’ve created an environment that says these are all of our children, they are all capable of learning here," Mr. Kaye said. He also pointed out the cost to educate these students in-district is lower than sending them to outside programs.
   Over the next several meetings, the board will hear budget presentations on the middle schools, athletics, buildings and grounds, transportation, and technology.