Hartford Public Schools Superintendent Beth Schiavino-Narvaez in April convened an Equity 2020 advisory committee to probe which school consolidations would make the best sense, given the declining school enrollments in the city. Many factors are at play: Facilities with environmental problems or in disrepair, unsustainable enrollments, both over- and under-enrolled but beautifully renovated buildings. How’s this going to play out, and in a way that increases school quality?
It’s impossible to say right now. But as the meeting notes and presentation from the committee’s June 22nd meeting suggest, there are some tough data points to contemplate, including:
- The total population in Hartford has increased slowly since 2000 while the number of school-aged children living in Hartford has decreased since 2000.
- Annual birth rates in the City have declined significantly over the past six years.
- Despite stronger overall population growth, annual birth rates over the past decade and declining public school enrollments mean the Sheff region can also anticipate declines in public school enrollment over the next five to 10 years.
- While Hartford Public Schools’ total K-12 enrollment has remained relatively stable at about 20,150 students over the past three years, the resident student portion of that enrollment has decreased by about 485 students (minus three percent).
- K-12 enrollment in Hartford Public Schools is projected to decrease by 1,945 students, minus 10 percent over the next five years, despite a continued increase in regional students in the system. Total K-12 enrollment is projected to be around 16,700 by 2025-26.
While school consolidation scenarios were not ready for presentation, a more important discussion took place June 22nd about the need for strong communications and the responsibility of Equity 2020 council members to communicate. All of us on the council represent one or multiple constituencies, and will all be sharing progress in this process. Inclusivity is the stated goal.
The Bottom Line. Differing – and even strongly opposed – views are more welcome at the table in Hartford than they have been in a long time. This is a positive development, because so many parents and educators want to make things better. Equity 2020 represents an increasingly thoughtful, data-driven, and transparent stakeholder engagement approach, and notwithstanding the difficult work that lies ahead, we look forward to a well-executed process.