Increasing student population: Conestoga’s decade long trend


By Rohan Anne, Shreya Vaidhyanathan and George Zhang, Co-Webmaster, Opinion Editor and Photography Editor When psychology teacher David Zimmerman first started teaching at Conestoga in 1992, the school held about 1,200 students. Now, more than 30 years later, Conestoga boasts a student population of more than 2,300, the highest it has ever been. In the...

By Rohan Anne, Shreya Vaidhyanathan and George Zhang, Co-Webmaster, Opinion Editor and Photography Editor

When psychology teacher David Zimmerman first started teaching at Conestoga in 1992, the school held about 1,200 students. Now, more than 30 years later, Conestoga boasts a student population of more than 2,300, the highest it has ever been.

In the past 20 years, student enrollment has increased by 38% with 7,184 students enrolled in the Tredyffrin/Easttown School District as of August 2022. Families who live in or move into the district are a driving force in rising enrollment rates.

Local realtors have seen that new homeowners who choose to look for housing in this district generally do so because they prioritize education for their children. This large interest in education fosters a competitive academic culture at ’Stoga and boosts its prestige. In turn, this creates a loop in enrollment, which is when more education-prioritizing families move to TESD, thus further increasing enrollment.

The district prides itself on its academic excellence, as both U.S. News and Niche, websites that rank high schools based on the metrics of academic performance and property value, consistently rank Conestoga as one of the top five high schools in Pennsylvania.

Conestoga also boasts a 90% proficiency rate in biology, 82% in literature and 78% in algebra, as measured by the 2019 Keystone Exams. These numbers exceed the state averages of 70%, 60%, and 60%, respectively.
Additionally, Conestoga had a 70% Advanced Placement exam participation rate in 2021, which is double the nationwide participation rate of 35%.

T/E School Board Vice President Todd Kantorczyk believes that Conestoga’s high rankings attract enrollment.
“We deliver a high-quality public education and I think that’s why we’re a popular destination. When people are looking for places to live, I imagine that being ranked highly on these lists weighs in their thinking,” Kantorczyk said.
Over the course of his three-decades-long tenure at Conestoga, Zimmerman has seen the high level of education to which Kantorczyk referred. He has observed the socioeconomic makeup of residents in the area and believes it to be a contributing factor to this academic success.

“You have a relatively wealthy area with a lot of people who are highly educated, and those people — the parents — value education, which is then transmitted to the students. There is a high value put on education by the community, and therefore, students work to try to get the most out of their education,” Zimmerman said.
Junior Leihui “Tony” Tong agrees with Zimmerman and finds that Conestoga fosters a competitive culture when it comes to academics.

“Students will definitely want to compete more with each other,” Tong said. “Everyone’s on their guard. Everyone’s racing. (The academic environment is) so goal-oriented; everyone knows that this is the real deal.”

Increasing population’s effect on property values

When comparing school districts state-wide, academic rankings typically favor Conestoga, according to U.S. News and Niche. Realtor Susy Shea, who works primarily in the T/E School District, has noticed that, historically, this area attracts a lot of relocation buyers. Throughout her 22 years of experience, Shea has worked with many clients who don’t mind longer commutes to work and Conestoga alumni who return to the area to raise their children.

“We have people out here (that) work in the city, who want to be out here with the great schools, and they don’t mind that commute into the city,” Shea said. “I’ve had a bunch of clients recently, where they go to Conestoga, and then they’d go to college for a while and then come back and want their kids to go to ’Stoga. It’s a really strong pull, the Conestoga alumni legacy.”

Not only do some alumni move back to the district because of its academic prowess, others looking to provide their children with a good education do so as well. Silpa Nair moved her family here in early 2020 mainly because of just that: the district’s education standard.

“I have friends and colleagues who have kids (in) the school district, and I have always heard great things about the teachers and resources available,” Nair said. “Education is a base that is necessary for the kids. It’s not about excelling in their academics, but instead about (providing) an environment where they feel like they can grow.”
Likewise, for freshman Jeffrey Wang’s family, their reason for moving from a nearby school district to TESD was simple: the quality of education. Wang believes that when people who prioritize education constantly move to the same school district, it creates a “positive loop” for school outcomes and standardized test scores, both of which affect rankings.

Chester County has also seen an increase in townhomes throughout the areas of Wayne Glen and Village Square. In 2021, the median price of homes within the county was $420,000. In stark contrast, the townships of Tredyffrin and Easttown have some of the highest median sale prices of $850,000. Tredyffrin Township Director of Planning Erin McPherson credits this upward trend to the increased demand for property.

“T/E School District in general is highly regarded; when people are looking for homes, they want to be within a good school district, so that becomes a primary focus of many people. When you have a good school district, it can drive up the cost of homes because it’s highly desirable,” McPherson said.

Despite some price fluctuation in TESD, Shea maintains that property values here have generally remained steady, even when “prices were tanking everywhere,” such as during the 2008 housing crisis. According to Shea, when compared with the rest of the country, the price drops in Tredyffrin and Easttown townships were insignificant. She notes that low tax rates and high property values make this area attractive to buyers.

“Here, we have one of the best school districts in the state, yet our taxes are quite low. Right now, we have a huge number of buyers who want to buy immediately,” Shea said. “Say you have 10 offers on the house you’re selling; one person gets the house and now nine buyers are still out there looking. Because of that demand, buyers are still willing to pay a good price.”

Conestoga’s accommodations for increased enrollment

Increased enrollment at Conestoga has created the need for physical additions to the school building — from Conestoga’s first expansion to include more classrooms in 1966 to the addition of the atrium and new wing in 2021. According to Kantorczyk, the 2021 expansion was the direct result of the projected increase in enrollment rates.

“The most tangible way (enrollment has affected our school) was a decision to put an addition on the high school and also to reconfigure other parts of the building. We look at what the availability is in the building, what space is available, and what our projected enrollment looks like, and do an evaluation as to whether we’re going to be able to maintain the status quo,” Kantorczyk said. “What was happening at the high school looked like it was getting into a red zone, so we made a decision to add on to the high school.”

Although enrollment has been steadily increasing, the number of students in each classroom has not. Assistant Principal Patrick Boyle noted that the hiring process for teachers was relatively seamless this summer, with Conestoga receiving multiple applications for open positions.

“We were lucky this year in being able to make decisions and hire the best teachers for these positions, whereas other school districts didn’t have that (luxury),” Boyle said.

Conestoga continues to accommodate the rising number of students in a multitude of ways, including expanding the building and adding new classes and clubs. Boyle and other administrators work to meet the needs of the ever-increasing student population.

“It’s been a concerted effort across all avenues within the building to meet the needs of increased enrollment,” Boyle said. “We monitor the enrollment, look at where the trends are going academically, we look at where the needs are for those students and continue to support them moving forward. It’s not something where we sit there and say, ‘We’re gonna wait and see what happens.’ We try to predict, as we do right now, where the enrollment is going to be so we can plan accordingly.”

Rohan Anne can be reached at [email protected]

Shreya Vaidhyanathan can be reached at [email protected]

George Zhang can be reached at [email protected]

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