The West Hempstead school district will not need to utilizeit owns on Eagle Avenue for additional classroom space anytime in the near future.
A demographics study conducted by Western-Suffolk BOCES at the request of the school district, showed that West Hempstead's enrollment declined by 8.6 percent from 2005 to 2011, more than double the Long Island and Nassau County averages.
During this period, West Hempstead experienced a 5.3 percent drop, a loss of 47 students, in its elementary grades; a decrease of 4.5 percent (22 students) in its middle school, and a dramatic 13.6 decline (135 students) in its high school.
Joan Townley presented the findings Tuesday during the second meeting of West Hempstead's Space Utilization Committee, an informal grouping of school officials, Board of Education members, community leaders and residents. The information was provided to help the committee make a recommendation to the board regarding what the district should do with the 9,783 sq. ft. empty space that exists in the Chestnut Street School building and the 51,155 sq. ft. Eagle Avenue School building Nassau BOCES will be vacating when its lease ends in June 2013.
Before the building on Eagle Avenue was leased to BOCES, West Hempstead operated it as a public elementary school called Marion Delaney, until it was closed due to enrollment declines. But as the community contemplates what to do with the building now -- use it internally, rent it or sell it -- it had to determine whether there would be a need to reopen the school in the future.
It appears there won't. Between 2011 and 2014, the demographics study predicts West Hempstead's enrollment will continue to decline by 3.8 percent. Enrollment at its two elementary schools is expected to drop by 3.4 percent, more so at George Washington. West Hempstead Middle School should see a 2.8 percent decline, and West Hempstead High School, a 7.8 percent decrease. This downward trend could continue through 2021, when the study predicts West Hempstead's total enrollment, currently 2,144, could be down to 2,008 students.
A major reason for the decline in enrollment in not just West Hempstead, but across Long Island, is simply that "less babies are being born," Townley explained. In 1990, there were close to 40,000 births on Long Island but only around 30,000 in 2010. Births in the West Hempstead school district dropped from 236 in 2002 to 168 in 2010.
The economy is a contributing factor. Foreclosures are up and home sales are down (In 2004, 226 units sold in the district, compared to 87 in 2010). With less young families moving in, West Hempstead has seen a shift in its population, less residents under age 4 and more over 55.
While private school enrollment on Long Island dropped by 10.9 percent, West Hempstead’s stayed stable at around 38.9 percent.
Ultimately, the study found that there is enough unused space at West Hempstead's five school buildings (not counting Eagle Avenue) to accommodate its students now and in the future, even if, despite forecasts, enrollment did increase slightly.
If the district did move students to the Eagle Avenue building it would have to shell out money to make it ADA-compliant.
So what will become of the building, given this new information?
The Space Utilization Committee will meet again on Aug. 28, when they will tour at 7:30 p.m. and then around 8 p.m. All interested community members are invited to participate.
Tell us what you think the school district should do with the Marion Delaney/Eagle Avenue School building by posting a comment or