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Last year Newark Board of Education president Dawn Hayes boasted, in an echo of superintendent Roger Leon’s claims,
“Schools are opening or re-opening or expanding. Enrollment is the highest in decades. Graduation rates are at an all-time high. Students are receiving college scholarships at unprecedented levels. And, we are only at the start of Year Three of the strategic plan.”
Yet according to new data courtesy of Tapinto, enrollment in Newark public schools—particularly the new schools celebrated by Leon— is dropping in every grade level.
For instance, at Sir Isaac Newton Elementary School, which opened in 2020, 22 kindergarteners started there but only 18 went on to first grade and only 12 were still there in second grade. At Newark Vocational High School, 210 freshmen enrolled but by junior year there were only 161 left, a drop of 23%.
This data comes from the New Jersey Department of Education database. Using those numbers, Tapinto was able to track 17 grade-level classes in seven new schools for a three year period: “In all but two of those grade-level classes, enrollment has declined each year..”
When queried, district spokesperson Nancy Deering denied there was any drop in enrollment at any of the seven schools.
In March 2022 Tammy Murphy, Gov. Murphy’s wife, visited the brand-new Michelle Obama Elementary School and was welcomed by a full class of youngsters. But principal LaShanda Gilliam acknowledged to Tapinto that the classroom was only full because she had combined all first and second-graders into one classroom for the First Lady’s visit: “We have seven students in the first grade and thirteen students in the second grade,” she explained. In spring 2023 the DOE data shows third grade only had 11 students and second grade had only seven students, signifying additional disenrollments.
Michelle Obama Elementary School is currently one of the lowest-performing schools in all of New Jersey.