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Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress Report: Enrollment Decline, School Closures

Hudson Valley Pattern for Progress has released a discussion brief analyzing how solid the region's educational infrastructure is for the decade to come... Hudson Valley Bureau Chief Dave Lucas has details

The report, titled "Closed Schools, Open Minds: Hudson Valley's School Enrollment Dilemma and Opportunities for Adaptive Reuse" looks into the dilemma school districts all over the Valley are facing: declining enrollment rates.

Adam Bosch is Vice President of Research and Externam Communications at Hudson Valley Patterns for Progress. He says that every county in the Hudson Valley has seen its school enrollment drop over the last ten years. Four counties - Columbia, Greene, Sullivan and Ulster - have seen a steady decline that has resulted in the loss of at least 10 percent of their student populations. The other five counties - Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester - saw growth after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. But that growth bubble has since popped, and all of those counties except Westchester have nearly returned to their pre-9/11 school enrollments.

Lower enrollment means a smaller population and that decreases the tax revenue that funds district budgets. All that coupled with a recession is forcing school districts to make tough decisions.

The valley-wide decline in enrollment has resulted in the closure of at least 19 school buildings since 2009. A total of 25 public school buildings have closed since 1999. When closures among parochial schools are counted, the number of closed buildings increases to 45.

The region's school enrollment decline is being driven by a number of economic, demographic and other factors that are identified in the report.

Pattern for Progress believes that school building closures can be viewed as an opportunity to reuse the buildings in new, innovative and productive ways. In other regions and states, communities have reused their school buildings as senior housing, health clinics, business incubators, municipal centers and more.

By reporting its findings, Pattern for Progress hopes to start a conversation about marginalized buildings and how they might be reused to enhance the Hudson Valley's quality of life in new ways.

Here's a LINK to access the Pattern for Progress paper.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.