Demographer: New Princeton Apartments Will Have No ‘Earth-Shattering’ Impact On Schools

A friendly bear at the door to Community Park Elementary in Princeton. (click to expand.)

A friendly bear at the door to Community Park Elementary in Princeton. Community Park’s enrollment will grow only modestly in the next 5 years (click to expand.)

We hate to say “I told you so”, but according to a report produced by a demographer retained by Princeton Public Schools, the decision to approve 280 walkable apartments at the old hospital site will not produce an unmanageable flow of new students to the school district. At the time when the apartments were going through the approval process, a regular claim among objectors was that new residents risked overwhelming the School District. (At one Planning Board meeting, one witness suggested that we would need to build an entire new elementary school). We pointed out that this was all very unlikely, because apartment developments in other similar jurisdictions produced relatively few new students. Put simply, people with children don’t like living in apartments, even when the local school district is very good. They prefer the space that comes with a house.

The demographer did say that the High School is likely to come under modest upward pressure in terms of student numbers, but these changes are likely to be able to be accommodated on the existing site by adding a relatively small number of additional classrooms. In fact, additional classroom space is already accounted for in the 2014-2015 K12 budget.

It’s pretty depressing that people look on the possibility of having some extra children in town as a liability. But this is a big part of what people mean when they talk about measuring the ‘financial impact’ of new development. Now we know that the cost of providing for students in our public schools is unlikely to change much because of apartment construction, even as Princeton profits from a substantial new source of tax revenue. Today’s report is further evidence that apartments are a cash cow for the town, and a great way to provide people with new housing choices suitable to their needs.

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