Board of Education Prepares for Surge in Student Population

In an anticipated surge of growth, the Elmwood Park Board of Education is crafting a plan to address a projected increase of 237 new students over the next few years, revealed at their recent board meeting. Amid robust discussions on budgeting and district demographics, the board also took time to honor exceptional teachers from across the district, recognizing their commitment to education and student support.

According to the district’s demographic study, a steady uptick in student population is projected with many of these students expected to enroll at Gander and Gilbert. This influx will pose a challenge to the district’s current classroom capacity, a concern that the board is keen on addressing. A potential solution may lie in the use of capital reserve funds and a preschool grant to build Pre-K additions onto three elementary buildings, aiming to accommodate the new wave of students by 2025.

In tandem with this population growth, the district is keeping an eye on three major construction projects that could indirectly impact school enrollments. The projects, primarily developing apartments for the 50-and-above age demographic, may usher in younger families to the area as older residents transition.

Separately, a boost in financial support from the state, totaling an additional $3.3 million, has paved the way for new educational programs. The proposed programs span multiple disciplines, including an Elementary Finance program, a world language program, and a social studies program. Additionally, plans to hire more staff are underway, with roles including a speech therapist, special education teacher, preschool teacher, school nurse, and occupational therapist earmarked for recruitment.

Dr. Aya Ketty, the superintendent, reported that the district had met its two goals for the current school year: fostering an environment that nurtures creativity and innovation, and promoting a culture of belongingness and equity for all students. The achievements under these goals were notable, including new programs for professional development, a wellness counselor, and numerous counseling sessions across the district.

Budget-wise, the board lauded the rise in the general fund over the past three years while the debt service decreased, resulting in lowered taxes compared to the previous year. With the efficient utilization of funds and grants, a zero percent tax increase is projected for the 2023-24 school year.

Finally, on a softer note, the meeting started with Dr. Ketty’s ‘Superintendent’s Report’, where exceptional teachers from various district schools were recognized. Among those honored were Ms. Pachella, an English and science teacher at the middle school, and Ms. Lehanski, a high school teacher known for her supportive approach towards troubled students. Elementary level teachers from Gilbert, Gantner, and 16th Ave were also acknowledged for their dedication and unique contributions.

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