With the loss of 42 students in a year’s time, Wilton Public Schools faced its biggest decrease in student enrollment in 10 years last year. This year, the district broke that 10-year record.

According to this year’s official enrollment count, prepared by certified accountant and actuary Ellen Essman, 4,104 students are currently enrolled in the Wilton public school system — 78 fewer than last year.

Grade level enrollment this year is as follows:


  • Kindergarten: 236.

  • First grade: 286.

  • Second grade: 251.

  • Third grade: 296.

  • Fourth grade: 328.

  • Fifth grade: 348.

  • Sixth grade: 317.

  • Seventh grade: 360.

  • Eighth grade: 342.

  • Ninth grade: 327.

  • 10th grade: 338.

  • 11th grade: 334.

  • 12th grade: 341.


The number of enrolled preschool students used in Essman’s report — which in this case is 78 — is based on the highest enrollment for the previous year, which, she said, is usually in May.

An assumed number of 20 is used each year for out-of-district students — not including those enrolled in vocational schools.

Essman said kindergarten is “the biggest unknown” and “the hardest piece of the enrollment projection” because the Wilton system uses the annual preschool census to prepare the kindergarten projections — ”If the census is too high, our projections will be too high. If too low, we will be low.”

Grade level changes


Sixth grade saw the biggest drop this year with 45 fewer students enrolled this year than last year, followed by second grade’s 37-student decrease, third grade’s 27-student decrease and kindergarten’s 26-student decrease.

Five other grade levels saw drops in enrollment this year — there are 18 fewer students in the ninth grade, 16 fewer in fourth grade, seven fewer in 10th grade, three fewer in 11th grade, and two fewer in eighth grade.

Four grade levels saw an increase in enrolled students — fifth grade enrollment increased by 37 students, first grade increased by 32, seventh grade increased by 19, and 12th grade increased by 15.

September vs. October


The Wilton school district counts the number of enrolled students — excluding out-of-district and preschool students — on the first day of each month. According to the Sept. 1 enrollment count, the district had 4,132 students — 26 more students than were counted on Oct. 1.

According to the Oct. 1 enrollment report, the following grade levels lost the following number of students since September:


  • Kindergarten: 4.

  • Second grade: 3.

  • Fifth grade: 1.

  • Sixth grade: 1.

  • Seventh grade: 3.

  • Ninth grade: 8.

  • 10th grade: 2.

  • 11th grade: 4.


Projections


In October 2014, Wilton Public Schools projected 4,121 students to be enrolled this school year — 17 more than were actually counted this October.

Essman anticipates 4,022 kindergarten through 12th graders to be enrolled in the school district next year — a “small decrease of 82 students,” said Essman at the Board of Education’s Oct. 22 meeting.

Essman projected the following number of students enrolled in each grade level next year:


  • Kindergarten: 236.

  • First grade: 253.

  • Second grade: 291.

  • Third grade: 266.

  • Fourth grade: 301.

  • Fifth grade: 333.

  • Sixth grade: 349.

  • Seventh grade: 318.

  • Eighth grade: 359.

  • Ninth grade: 332.

  • 10th grade: 323.

  • 11th grade: 330.

  • 12th grade: 331.


The projected 82-student decline for 2016 is a pattern that Essman expects to continue in a “steady decline.”

Other than an enrollment increase of one student in 2011, student enrollment — with preschool and out-of-district students factored in — has dropped every year since 2008:


  • 2009: 37 fewer students than the previous year.

  • 2010: 36 fewer students than the previous year.

  • 2012: 23 fewer students than the previous year.

  • 2013: 15 fewer students than the previous year.

  • 2014: 39 fewer students than the previous year.


A number of factors can impact student enrollment, according to Essman’s report, including:

  • Housing starts.

  • Housing market.

  • Birth rate.

  • Private and prep school capacity and preference rates.

  • Parochial school capacity and preference rates.

  • Perceived quality of schools.

  • Trends in school start age — tendency to hold children back a year.

  • General economic conditions.


Click here to view Essman’s 2015 enrollment report and projections.