A demographic study commissioned by the Brick Township school district showed the township’s birth rate declined by nearly a quarter in a matter of 12 years, resulting in a declining school population.
The study, authored by Dr. Richard S. Grip and obtained by Shorebeat through a request under the Open Public Records Act, shows the Brick’s birth rate declined 21.4 percent between 2001 and 2012, with more seniors graduating high school than kindergarteners entering the system, ultimately leading to declines in school population. In the 2015-16 school year, for example, 188 more students graduated high school than entered kindergarten.
Brick’s birth rate was one of the lowest in Ocean County and lower than the state average, the study said. Between the 2006-07 school year and the start of the 2015-16 school year, the student population declined by 1,967 students, an 18 percent drop. Over the same time period, the district’s youngest students, those in preschool to fifth grade, dropped by 722. During the current school year, the district will educate 8,746 students, down from 10,714 in 2006-07.
Brick’s birth rates were analogous to many of New Jersey’s suburbs outside of commuting distance to New York or Philadelphia, plagued by highest-in-the-nation taxes with few opportunities to produce sufficient income. From 2000 to 2010, Brick lost more females in the 35 to 39 year-old age group, at the same time mothers were beginning to have children in their mid-to-late 30s instead of earlier in life, the study said.
As it pertains to school attendance, Grip’s study effective predicts a plateau. Eventually, the smaller elementary school populations will reach high school, and kindergarten replacement metrics will essentially even out. The study predicted school population between now and the 2020-21 school year. Another 521 students would be lost during that period, after which the population will begin to stabilize.
“In the final year of the projection period, positive kindergarten replacement of six students is projection,” Grip wrote.
The 46-page study also looked at school-by-school population, finding that Brick Township Memorial High School would suffer the largest drop – 234 students – while Emma Havens Young Elementary School and Lake Riviera Middle School would follow with drops of 143 and 130 students, respectively.
Ultimately, by the end of the study period – the 2020-21 school year, – the district will have a smaller population than the current school year. The total number of students is forecast to be 8,225 that year.
District officials have rarely commented on the study, besides acknowledging its existence. Board President John Lamela told Shorebeat after a recent Board of Education meeting that the district would form a Demographic Committee. To date, however, that committee has not met.
“We’re looking at it based on school population,” he said, adding board members had not yet been brief on the report by Interim Superintendent Thomas Gialanella.
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