In less than 2 years, my oldest daughter will be off to Amity Middle School. That timeline has made me pay far more attention to what is going on in our Amity Regional District in recent months. We moved here for the school system and have always planned to send our children on from Orange to the Amity system. But I am increasingly alarmed by a trend I am seeing: why are so many of my fellow parents taking their kids out of the Amity system before high school?
During last Spring’s budget referendum, as a former financial research analyst, I started doing what I know best – digging into the data. What stood out was the steep decline in Amity enrollment compared to the growing enrollment in our elementary schools. Over the last 11 years, Amity enrollment is down by 369 students, or 15%. Why such a sharp decline at Amity?
Often, the enrollment declines have been dismissed as merely a demographic trend. However, if we dig into the data, a more concerning trend becomes evident. If we track what happens to each graduating class, from K-12, some clear patterns begin to emerge. For every Amity graduating class from 2016 to the future class of 2026 (current Amity 9th grade), enrollment steadily rises from K-6, flattens at middle school, and experiences a sharp drop between 8th and 9th grade. That decline has accelerated significantly in the last two years. In 2021, the Amity 9th grade class had 26 fewer students than the prior year’s 8th grades across both middle schools. In 2022, there were 40 fewer students moving on to 9th grade from our two middle schools.
Each October, the Amity Board of Education publishes an Enrollment Report in its monthly Board Packet. This report is used to prepare the budget for the upcoming school year and is also used to allocate the budget to each town and determine each town’s contribution to the Amity budget.
Amity enrollment has trended down for years. Over the last 11 years, Amity enrollment is down by 369 students, or 15%, while the Amity budget has increased 25% over the same time period.
While Orange is the largest of the 3 towns, representing about half of all Amity students, Orange students are leading the departures disproportionately. Of the 40 fewer students in this year’s Freshman class, 34 are from Orange.
As a mom looking at sending my kids to Amity soon, it leaves me worried. WHY are so many of my fellow parents choosing to take their kids out of Amity before high school?
As a graduate of public schools and the child of a public school teacher, I am a strong believer in and supporter of public schools. But it takes a community – parents, administrators, teachers and students – working together to create a great school system. I will not accept that steep declines in enrollment are just a trend Amity is subject to like the rest of Connecticut.
The question I’m left asking is WHY? If Amity is so great, why are so many of our local families withdrawing before high school? I am currently surveying parents who have left Amity to ask just that, and I will share those answers with you in a future article. If you would like to share your experience as a parent who withdrew your child from the Amity system, you can complete an anonymous survey here: https://bit.ly/AR5ParentSurvey
I hope as a community we can work together to make Amity a place we all look forward to sending our kids after 8th grade.
Note: All enrollment, ADM and budget data comes from the Amity Board of Education Meeting Packets posted on the Amity Region 5 website. ADM reports are published in the Meeting Packet every year in October.
By Meghan Rabuse Orange Board of Finance – Alternate Member