How you know it’s time to close one of your district’s schools
Monday morning, we were telling you how school enrollment in many districts in New Jersey is dropping.
In the most extreme situations, that can mean a change of schools for children.
“When we have declining enrollment and we’re talking about closing a school, that creates greater problems than saying we have more enrollment and we’re talking about building a school,” said Richard Bozza, the executive director of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators.
He said when a new school is built, even though it may mean a tax increase, residents in a community feel like they’re getting something — but the opposite if true if a school shuts down. Parents don't generally like switching schools years years after their children start in them.
Bozza said before a distinct decides to close a school, dialogue is critically important.
“You have to have an incredible amount of conversation with the community to help educate them, particularly those families that might be impacted by a change,” he said.
He said some parents may get very upset about this kind of a change, because they fear their children will have trouble adjusting and making new friends.
“It’s a lot of that. It’s, 'I may have to get on a bus now where I walk,' or 'I may have to be on a bus longer than I may have been,'" Bozza said.
It can also cause complications for parents needing to make new childcare arrangements.
Bozza said if this kind of a change is made “the children are very resilient, parents a little less so."
"it’s kind of an emotional issue,” he said.
Districts facing dropping enrollment will often put together advisory committees that include parents, teachers and administrators "to really examine the problem and look at what alternatives might be," Bozza said. They might look at alternatives to school closings, such as reorganizing grade levels, "but always there needs to be a lot of discussion," Bozza said.
Data collected by the New Jersey Department of Education data shows over the past 6 years enrollment has declined in more than half of the state’s public school districts, although overall, enrollment has been holding basically flat.
You can contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com
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