FAIRFIELD — Enrollment in Fairfield public schools is projected to continue to decline for nearly the next decade.

In a Jan. 7 meeting of the Board of Education, Superintendent Mike Cummings presented enrollment and demographic data along with the proposed budget.

The enrollment data covered a 16-year span and estimated data for the next decade. The data shows the 2011-12 school year had the most students enrolled at 10,287.

Since then, the enrollment numbers have fallen and are projected to continue doing so for the next eight years. At that time, enrollment is forecast at 8,915, a 20-year low.

As of Oct. 1, 2019, there were 9,453 students enrolled in Fairfield public schools.

“If you think about the fact that we have nearly 10,000 students in the district,” said Cummings, “a decrease of 4- to 500 over quite a number of years is not enrollment dropping. I came from a district that lost, over 10 years, 3,000 kids. That’s an enrollment problem.”

According to Cummings, based on the number of classrooms in each of the 17 schools, losing four or five hundred students over eight or nine years is “not going to leave a lot of empty seats.”

The figures show middle and high school enrollment dropping while elementary school admission grows. The overall downward trend ends in the 2027-28 school year when, the superintendent said, they estimate there will be an upturn in the student population.

Cummings said future enrollment numbers and, more specifically, what grades they are in, is important when planning in the long term.

In terms of demographic data, there are 259 students classified as English language learners. The students come from 24 different countries and 33 languages are spoken among them.

Cummings said the number of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals is “up slightly” from the year before at 16.2 percent. The state average is 42.1 percent.

The number of students with disabilities “remains relatively stable,” according to Cummings, at 12.9 percent compared with the state average of 15 percent.

Cummings also said it was important to note that the high school graduation rate has continued to rise. As of the 2017-18 school year, it was 96.4 percent.