BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ -- Bernards Township schools might need to reduce staff by two or three instructional positions for the 2020-2021 school year, as enrollment in the district continues to decline.

Superintendent Nick Markarian described to the Board of Education on Monday night, Feb. 27, how many class sections in each grade are projected to be needed for the school year starting in September.

Declining elementary enrollment may create staffing adjustments, he said. Kindergarten enrollment – often a fluid situation even through the summer – must be watched closely, he said.

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How many classes are needed in each grade and in each building affects the number and type of teachers that will be needed. Such personnel decisions affect next year’s budget.

Markarian’s numbers showed the possibility of one fewer less sections in both the first and third grades at Liberty Corner School, and the likelihood of adding a fourth-grade section.

At Mount Prospect School, he foresaw the likelihood of one less first-grade section, with the possibility of adding a fourth kindergarten section.

At Oak Street School, numbers foreshadowed the chance of reducing the number of fourth-grade classes to three from four, he said. Numbers for third grade are on the cusp of adding a fourth section, he added.

The number of class sections will likely remain the same at Cedar Hill School, he said.

Where and how many teachers are needed is trickier to predict at this point for the middle and high schools because students are able to choose electives and various levels of core content subjects, like math. Students shape their next year’s schedules in April.

Markarian showed the current year’s average class sizes by core content areas (science, language arts, math, etc.)  and for electives at both schools.

The board heard its professional demographer in November predict an enrollment drop across the district.

Enrollment in the district as of mid-October was 5,117, the sixth straight year of fewer students. Demographer Richard Grip projected a decline of about seven percent over the next five years, the extent of his analysis.

This year’s number is 635 students lower than peak enrollment in 2013-14, he said. He projected 5,002 pupils next year, 4934 in 2021-22 and 4,819 in 2022-23.

The most pronounced decline is in the younger grades. Grip said there are one-sixth fewer children in those grades this year than in 2014-15. There have been fewer incoming kindergartners than the outgoing fifth-graders for nine years.

Middle and high school numbers have not declined as dramatically.

Markarian said the school district should work closely with the township government to monitor the number of approved housing units, and when they may actually be built and ready to occupy. He also said the school should consider updating the demographer’s assessment next year.

Grip projected 232 public school children (K-12) from new housing in the two Cedar Hill and Liberty Corner sending districts. Most would come from the Dewy Meadow and Mountain View development proposals.

Both the class size and demographer’s reports are posted on the district website. Go to “Board of Education” and then “presentations.”