HomeMt Laurel NewsMt Laurel school enrollment in decline

Mt Laurel school enrollment in decline

Except for a spike in 2005, enrollment in Mount Laurel public schools has been in a steady decline.

As of this September, there are 4,221 students enrolled, a drop of 80 students from last year.

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Assistant Superintendent of Schools Dr. Sharon Vitella said at a recent Mount Laurel School Board meeting enrollment is something they watch all summer.

“We’re maintaining our focus on the class sizes” by trying to keep them equal, she said, noting the optimal class size is 17 to 23 students.

“We feel that the class sizes that we have allow the teachers to differentiate the way they need to and to really individualize instruction,” Vitella said.

She said she thinks that because there is no more building boom in Mount Laurel and fewer homes are being built that that contributes to the decline in enrollment. Also, fewer people not moving or selling homes because of the economy may also be factors.

Vitella said balanced literacy curriculum requires teachers working in small groups or with individual students.

She said she remembers when her son was in fourth grade his teacher said she had 27 kids in class, up from 20 the year before.

“’You may think that’s not a big difference,’” Vitella quoted “’Think about seven more kids in your home.’

“Since that day many years ago it really has impressed me on what you have to do differently in a class when you’ve got an additional five kids in the class,” she said. “I really do think that we enable our teachers to do the kind of instruction that we know is best for kids because they have reasonable numbers of students to work with.”

Kindergarten classrooms in Mount Laurel average 18 students; first, second, and third grades average 19 students; and grade four average 20 students.

With 22 homerooms, grade five’s average classroom size is 20. Grade six has 23 homerooms with an average size of 19 students.

Seventh grade has 27 homerooms and the average classroom size is 21. Grade eight has 28 homerooms and also has an average classroom size of 21.

Vitella also broke down the incidents last year when medical care was needed.

There were 24 cases labeled Level 1 where skilled nursing care, assessment, and intervention were required.

Level 2 cases total 206, which are complicated health care needs, i.e. severe seizure disorders and diabetics with insulin pumps.

There were 393 Level 3 cases, medically complex concerns requiring daily treatments or close monitoring, i.e. cancer, immune disorders, and moderate asthma.

And there were 1,083 Level 4 issues, meaning occasional monitoring required.

Vitella said the number of incidents is pretty much the same as the previous year but there is an increase in food allergies, peanut allergies, and diabetes.

“There seems to be a slow increase in those numbers,” she said, noting she doesn’t know why there is an increase in allergies.

“When I was in school I never heard of a child with a peanut allergy and now we’ve got peanut-free classrooms, we’ve got peanut-free tables in the cafeteria,” Vitella said.

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