WEST CALDWELL, NJ — The Caldwell-West Caldwell school district presented demographic and enrollment projections earlier this week that provided data regarding future district student enrollment through the 2024-2025 school year.

The board of education has contracted with Ross Haber and Associates to do the analysis, which provides data moving forward for consideration of its long-range facility plan and the ability to house the future student population.

The analysis provides information regarding the sale of existing housing stock and a breakdown of demographics of the two communities including the median age, income, race, limited English proficiencies, number of students on free and reduced lunch.

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The report, now available on the school district’s website, indicates that there will be a 3-percent increase in the population, which translates to an increase of 85 additional students during the five-year time frame. It is projected that the elementary schools will see an increase while the middle and high schools will see a slight decrease. 

Since the full-day kindergarten program is a new variable into the student population, Haber indicated that he included those numbers in the estimate along with the available data of birth rates and current student population.

The figures that Haber presented were void of mention of students that may enter the district from either the COAH obligations of both communities or the redevelopment project being formulated in Caldwell.

“In speaking with the Borough Clerk of Caldwell and the Township Clerk of West Caldwell, there is no significant new residential construction either currently in progress or on the agendas of either municipality,” Haber said in his report. “As of this report (December 2019) there is no indication of any large residential housing developments at either planning board.”

Haber did note that if any additional data is available, he can amend his report to include any new information.

Curious about the takeaways from this report, resident Chris Elko questioned Superintendent Dr. James Heinegg as to whether there would be a plan moving forward.

Heinegg responded that the board would assess options and stated that there are “rooms at Harrison if need be.”

“But for more significant growth, there may be more additional room at the middle school,” said Heinegg, adding that it is “more cost effective to renovate at one location” rather than conducting multiple smaller projects.

In other news, approximately 35 parents and students attended the meeting to advocate that the board consider supporting a middle school girls field hockey team in the fall.

Referencing Title IX, opportunity entitlements and current options for girls fall sports, both parents and coaches of the sport remarked that the only fall sport for girls currently offered in the district is soccer, while boys have the opportunity to play either soccer or football. 

Discussion pursued about field availability for the public-school usage versus recreation department usage, budgetary concerns and the need to provide a continuum so the girls are prepared for the high-school level of competitive play.

When board member Julianne Grosso questioned whether the parents would pay for the equipment, the parents indicated that the cost of equipment was minimal and that they would incur the cost of sticks and goggles.

Business Administrator Thomas Lambe noted that “this decision, along with evaluating field space, will be considered” within the next two months, as the next year’s school budget is crafted. He also cautioned that the parents must be “considerate of the backlash to other areas.”

Lambe estimated that the cost for a program would be approximately $30,000, which would be primarily inclusive of coaching stipends and transportation.

The next board of education meeting public conference meeting will be Feb. 3.