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BC: Future enrollment expected to decline

The best guess from administrators at the Bethlehem Central School District is that enrollment district wide will level off and then decrease in the coming years, and that will not necessitate the hiring of new teachers.

In the 2009-10 school year, however, enrollment ended up being notably higher than the projections called foras of Oct. 2, district wide enrollment stood at 5,068 instead of the 4,920 predicteda fact Superintendent Michael Tebbano attributed to the start of full-day kindergarten and the economic recession, which have both brought an unanticipated wave of students into public schools.

"We did not know in November of last year that the economy was going to affect people's decision of where to go to school," Tebbano said.

He did predict that these two factors would be a "continued draw" in the future, though.

With 252.9 teachers in the district, there is a roughly 20-to-1 student-teacher ratio, which Tebbano said is right around where the district wants to be. This figure does not equate to class size, however.

While the recession caused a glut of students this year, it is likely that the slump will hasten a decline in enrollment numbers in the coming years due to a lack of development in the area. Tebbano said the district has met with administrations from Bethlehem and surrounding towns and determined that many housing projects have stalled or been abandoned"to date this year, just 13 applications for housing startups have been awarded, for example.

"Because of the economic slowdownthere's very little going on n new development in any of these areas," Tebbano said.

The district is predicting enrollment in the 2010-11 school year to drop to 4,865. While that does not seem to be a significant difference, it can have a sizable impact on how the district budgets and organizes class sections for the coming year.

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