Far fewer students will attend Quakertown Community School District five years from now.
Currently, there are 5,209 K-12 students, according to district data, but that number is projected to drop to 4,862 for the 2023-2024 school year.
Adding weight to the district’s projections is the steady decline in the number of live births in the area. In 2017, there were 377 births, 30 fewer than the previous year. By contrast, in 2003, there were 502 births.
Critics of the two high-profile school closures maintained the district needed to keep those schools open to accommodate any possible spike in population, but the district maintains any increases are accounted for.
“We have charts with all the developments that are on the books in different municipalities,” said Assistant Superintendent Nancianne Edwards.
Edwards told school board members at their Sept. 27 meeting that the impact of housing developments on the district was not as significant as commonly thought. She calculated that with 0.3 students per home, a 100-home development would still only yield 30 students across all grades. “It doesn’t necessarily have a great impact.”
Superintendent Bill Harner said some of these students would attend other schools, adding that currently up to 10 percent of the student population in the district attend non-public schools.
Harner stressed the projected 347 fewer students would not lead to staff layoffs. In a statement, he said, “Not at all. We will be reapplying funds from retirements and resignations into reducing class size in the primary grades, then incrementally through the upper grades.
“While we cannot predict housing starts and new students coming in from outside the district, we are certain enrollments will decline to allow us to invest our teaching resources wisely to the board’s priorities and to school district needs.”
Several school board members expressed concern about those class sizes at the elementary level, speculating whether they have a negative effect on learning.
Edwards acknowledged that nobody is happy to have large class sizes, but said the district allocated support teachers and aides when necessary.
Trumbauersville Elementary Principal Adam Schmucker said a significant number of students in his school is one area of concern, Plus, or advanced, classes, made “great gains.”
District data show five of those Plus classes had 30 or more students in the 2017-2018 school year.