BERNARDS TOWNSHIP, NJ — At least 67 children of Bernards Township school staff members will be enrolled in the district starting in the fall.

The Board of Education approved those students’ attendance at its last three meetings.

Seven are kindergartners whose school is to be determined.

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In the elementary buildings, the numbers are 14 at Cedar Hill School, 11 at Liberty Corner, four at Mount Prospect and two at Oak Street.

Fifteen of the students will attend William Annin Middle School and 14 will go to Ridge High School.

By board policy, these students will be excused the tuition charged to out-of-district students. On May 18, the rates were approved at $13,429 for kindergartners, $15,812 for grades 1 to 5, $15,981 for grades 6 to 8, and $15,744 for high schoolers. A scale based on disability was set for special education students.

At those rates, tuition for the 67 students would account to more than $1 million.

The students shouldn’t severely impact class sizes, as enrollment is continuing to drop for the foreseeable future.

According to the board’s latest demographic study, enrollment in the district as of mid-October was 5,117, the sixth straight year of fewer students. Demographer Richard Grip projected an enrollment decline of about seven percent over the next five years, the extent of his analysis.

The 2019-20 year’s number is 635 students lower than peak enrollment in 2013-14, he said. He projected 5,002 pupils in 2020-21, 4,934 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.

The numbers in pre-kindergarten through grade 5 dropped to 2,032 in 2019-20, compared to 2,513 in 2013-14. There have been fewer incoming kindergartners than the outgoing class for nine years.

Middle and high school numbers have not declined as dramatically. High school numbers stayed level at about 1,888 from 2014-15 through 2016-17, and was down to 1,804 in October counts. Middle school numbers declined only about 10 percent in the decade.

Grip projected the middle school enrollment to drop to 1,129 in 2024-25, from this year’s 1,281. He foresaw high enrollment going from this year’s 1,804 to 1,783 next year, 1,713 in 2022-23 and 1,608 in 2024-25.

Birth counts are largely responsible – fewer students are coming into the system than aging out.

Cedar Hill and Liberty Corner schools’ sending districts showed the highest growth in number of births and were home to the two largest proposed developments, Grip said.

The wild cards in any enrollment projections are children moving into the district and the impact of new housing.