HomeHaddonfield NewsNew developments in Haddonfield raise issue of school overcrowding

New developments in Haddonfield raise issue of school overcrowding

Discussions included the potential for redistricting, policy changes

Emily Liu/The Sun
Haddonfield Memorial High School Jazz Band performed live at the board of education meeting last month.

School Superintendent Chuck Klaus addressed the abundance of new developments in Haddonfield and their potential impact on the school district at the board of education’s May meeting.

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He also started a conversation about potential redistricting at the session, emphasizing that he wanted to explain the situation and start a discussion, but not to take formal action.

“We’re going to spend a lot of time talking about it, weighing every option and having feedback with people,” Klaus said, “because this is going to impact (a lot of people) if we do it. We might not even do it. This is just what we’re looking at.”

There are three new developments in the works: The Place at Haddonfield, 20 units of affordable housing expected to be completed in early 2025; 118 and 122 Ellis St., comprised of 18 units, 15 at market price and three affordable hhousing; and the Bancroft property’s planned 120 apartments.

The presentation from Klaus – said to be confirmed by the mayor at the board meeting – included 12 affordable-housing units and 108 market-priced apartments, but a spokesperson for Woodmont Properties confirmed 18 affordable units. A full presentation from the company regarding Bancroft will be held at 7 p.m. Monday at borough hall.

The developments mean Klaus anticipates an influx of school students. The proposed units are geographically closest to Central and Tatem elementary schools, which are already near capacity. Haddon has more room for students, but is farther away.

Klaus also noted that compared with neighboring towns, Haddonfield has a higher student-to-population ratio, so the implication is that people are coming to town primarily for the schools.

Another challenge the district faces is addressing already-large class sizes at the elementary school. Klaus explained that even if the district were to add another section there, it would cost about $100,000 to $200,000 more to implement, because it’s not just adding one or two classroom teachers, but also special teachers needed to fulfill contractual obligations.

“We would have to hire additional phys ed, art and language teachers, too,” Klaus noted.

The superintendent acknowledged that although the district values neighborhood schools in a walking district, it must also balance enrollment numbers, because facilities that are maxed out are displacing students. Considerations include the safety of those walking routes.

Proposed solutions include reevaluating swing/flex areas and sending students from certain areas to a different school, reevaluating enrollment policies to create more certainty about where students will go to school and hiring a demographer.

Meanwhile, overcrowding has led to a number of challenges for the district and its families.

“Many of these students are going to bring their pre-K siblings with them because there are families of three or four moving in,” Klaus explained. “Should we send all four to Haddon or one to Haddon and three to Central?”

His question was hypothetical, but it raised the need for making enrollment decisions. Klaus also noted the alarming trend of parents pulling their pre-K and kindergarten students from private, full-day programs and into the district’s half-day program to save their seats for first grade next year.

The district’s issues will again be discussed at the June 20 board of education meeting.

In other news:

  • The board received an English and Language Arts audit update; it’s available for viewing on the district’s YouTube page.
  • The board heard a presentation from the Haddonfield Memorial High School Jazz Band.
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