WEST ORANGE, NJ – Despite the approval of new housing developments throughout West Orange, demographer Richard Grip told the West Orange Board of Education (WOBOE) at its meeting on Monday that the student population in the township’s public schools will remain relatively the same over the next five years, according to his demographic study.
Grip, a demographer at Statistical Forecasting, said in the presentation of his findings that the major reason the student population will remain steady until 2020 is the declining birthrate in the township that he expects to continue.
According to the study, there was a 28-percent decline in births in West Orange from 2003, when there were 696 births, to 2014, when there were 501 births. Even in the Redwood district, which historically has had the most births of any of the township’s sections according to Grip, births declined from 137 in 2004 to 84 in 2014.
Grip projected that there will be approximately 148 new public school students that will be coming into the system due to new housing, including the Edision Lab Factory buildings and new housing planned for the West Essex Highlands complex. He said this will be more than offset by a projected decline of approximately 200 students coming into the elementary schools due to the decline in births.
“The West Orange public school system has lost 252 students in the last three years, after a period of increasing enrollment,” said Grip.
He said that even with this decline, the middle school population increased by approximately 100 students.
Board member Laura Lab said the West Orange High School could handle 600 more students than it curently has enrolled and that the school can close off parts of its wings if enrollment declines.
The next board of education meeting will be held on Sept. 18.
Megan Brill, director of the Downtown West Orange Alliance, tells the WOBOE that the school demographic study was the best one of its kind that the township has ever done.
Resident Clare Silvestri asks Grip about aspects of the school demographic study he conducted for West Orange.