It’s back to the classroom, masked-up and at normal capacity for students on the East End — and with the unprecedented local population growth reported by the Census Bureau’s 2020 census, some school districts are seeing sustained enrollment increases from the past school year.
In the 2020-21 school season, enrollment increases from former New York City residents relocating to the East End impacted the Amagansett and Quogue school districts in particular — both educate from the pre-kindergarten through sixth grade level. Amagansett’s enrollment increased by 40 percent from the 2019-20 school year to the 2020-21 school year. Enrollment in Quogue increased by 33 percent over the same period.
This school year, the numbers are nearly holding: 141 students are registered to attend school in Amagansett, a 47-percent increase compared to the 2019-20 academic year. Enrollment in Quogue is up 20 percent compared to the 2019-20 academic year, with plans for 105 students in the building when bells ring on September 2.
Jeffrey Ryvicker, superintendent of the Quogue Union Free School District, estimated that 50 percent of students who registered locally in the 2020-21 school year after attending schools in New York City are staying in his district this year.
“We certainly have students that are going back to the city, but we also have families that have chosen to stay,” Mr. Ryvicker said. “Our greatest number of folks that came from the city, actually, their kids graduated last year.”
In Quogue, the school accommodated the extra students by adapting with non-traditional classroom spaces.
“We basically turned all of our rooms into classroom learning spaces — so our art room, for example, became a classroom,” Mr. Ryvicker said.
In Amagansett, the district hired three teachers in August 2020 to handle the influx of students. In the 2021-22 school budget, these positions were maintained, the superintendent of schools, Seth Turner, said in an email.
“The data we have to date seems to indicate that the majority of new students who came to Amagansett last year plan to remain as part of the school community,” Mr. Turner said. “These teaching positions … remain important for the school to adequately meet the needs of all learners.”
At other East End school districts, however, enrollment numbers are steady from their pre-pandemic levels.
In East Quogue, the kingdergarten through sixth grade school district did not see a significant change in enrollment through the pandemic, the superintendent, Robert Long said. He noted a few families joined the district after moving from New York City, but not enough to detract from the district’s enrollment projection modeling.
The Southampton School District also did not have an increase in enrollment with the pandemic-migration east, and reported a slightly lower enrollment number this school year compared to last. Last year, the school recorded 1,393 students on day one; this year, the school expects 1,353 to attend, according to data from the superintendent, Nicholas Dyno.
“Although our sale [and] rentals of home[s] within the district is really high for the past two years, our enrollment did not experience any of the growth,” Mr. Dyno said in an email. “Many of the new families stayed enrolled in their previous schools and attended remotely, hired teachers and participated in group ‘pods’ during the pandemic, or home schooled their children.”
The Hampton Bays School District also reported a slightly lower enrollment total, according to the superintendent Lars Clemensen. He noted that a declining birthrate is the primary reason for the trend — and the district projected this.
“Whatever that calendar year’s birth rate is for 11946, roughly 80 percent of that number will materialize as kindergarteners,” he said. “Because of the housing market, and we’re not seeing as much transience, that number was recently increased to 85 percent.”
Mr. Clemensen said this projection allows the district to forecast class sizes up to five years out.
The Sag Harbor School District’s enrollment total has increased slightly from the 2019-20 school year — a 2-percent increase from 2019-20 to 2020-21, and a 4-percent increase from 2021-22.
In East Hampton, the district’s high school felt the brunt of the small increase in enrollment during the pandemic, but decreases in enrollment at the John Marshall Elementary School balanced out the school’s total enrollment numbers, Adam Fine, the superintendent said. This year, the numbers are consistent from last year, he added.
“I’m happy that the numbers are where they are and they’re not blowing up right now, because we’re having a difficult time … hiring staff,” Mr. Fine said. He noted that the Ross School in East Hampton saw a “dramatic” increase in enrollment.
Ross School, which offers the only private high school level education on the East End, indeed saw an increase in enrollment in its non-boarding student population — the school offers a residential option for students in grades six through 12.
Andi Clare O’Hearn, the school’s head of advancement and operations, said a “really big jump” in enrollment occurred for their high school population during the 2020-21 school year. This year, Ross’s enrollment numbers are still high, with more families moving out from New York City.
“We had a number of families decide that they were going to move back to the city, but we had an equal number of families that decided to move out,” she said.
And this year, Ms. O’Hearn noted that the school’s boarding population increased as well. Last year, some international students were not able to travel to the U.S. because of health restrictions on travel.
Currently, the Ross School is considering COVID-19 vaccination requirements for a subset of eligible students, Ms. O’Hearn said. The school already requires them for faculty and staff.