A new set of enrollment figures offers few surprises for the 2013-14 school year, but school officials say they'll step carefully in what all are calling a very unusual year for Newtown.
At a Wednesday night Board of Education meeting, officials said they didn't plan to revisit a new enrollment forecast this year, despite long-standing concerns with predictions from a previous study.
"It's a different year, and people have different reasons to take a break and look for a change," said Superintendent John Reed. "It's important not to make any assumptions about the future."
Newly-released enrollment numbers show three fewer students were attending Newtown's four elementary schools on October 1, compared to the first day of school. Enrollment at Newtown High School declined by seven students. Reed Intermediate School added two students, and Newtown Middle School's student population remained the same.
Overall, 4,914 students attend Newtown public schools. As with previous figures, the younger the grade, the fewer students were enrolled. The sparsest grade, kindergarten, is made up of 242 students.
Reed said he believes positions will have to be eliminated before enrollment improves, but maintains school populations are "cyclical" — something he says he's seen in his decades as a superintendent.
"You go through periods of growth and decline," he said. "If you look back over historical enrollment, we were in the midst of dropping from 4,400 to 3,200 [in the 1980s.] Then we went up to almost 5,700. That's just the nature of birth cycles."
Reed said he believes schools "can expect to see more" of the same patterns in the near future, but the district will respond accordingly.
"There are positions we haven't filled that are in the budget," he said. "We didn't fill a kindergarten position, we didn't fill a first-grade position."
Board of Education members said they'd "keep their eyes" on possible action in the future. Kathy Hamilton said she hopes departing teachers will provide the reductions in staff the district will need.