Public Schools Grapple with Increased Enrollment
School Committee will have to consider new space options at elementary and middle schools.
Last week, School Committee members faced some difficult statistics after Superintendent of Schools David Fleishman presented initial reports on Newton's rapidly-expanding enrollment.
The student populations, Fleishman said, are some of the highest they have been in years.
"We're seeing shifts in enrollment and its has a significant impact on the district," Fleishman said.
Although an official report will not be out for another few weeks, Fleishman said the district grew by 171 students this year, with the elementary school population up by 122 students and the high schools up by 52.
The kindergarten population, Fleishman said, is the highest it has been in nearly 17 years at 898 students.
According to a report issued to the School Committee, the preliminary enrollment reports for the 2010-2011 school year are 1 percent higher than what the district projected this time last year.
The department's initial projection is based on the city census of 4-year olds, Deputy Superintendent and Chief Administrative Officer Sandra Guryan said.
In some cases, Guryan said, districts see an increase of 4-year olds move in just before kindergarten.
The rising numbers, Fleishman said, not only cause strain on elementary resources, but also create a concern for future middle school resources.
Although the middle school enrollment has stayed flat, the elementary-level growth will impact the middle schools for the next ten years, Fleishman said.
"This is something we're going to have to grapple with," Fleishman said. "Staffing levels, space, placement—we're going to have to talk about this a lot around this table."
And while the numbers are certainly at a high point right now, Fleishman said trends shows the grade population tends to increase throughout the elementary school years.
The third grade class this year, for example, is over 1,000 students, but those numbers certainly were not that high when the same class entered kindergarten three years ago, Fleishman said.
The kindergarten class of 898, he said, could easily increase to 950 or 975 by next year.
Several plans are currently up on the table for renovations and additions to F.A. Day Middle School, which were also presented at last week's meeting.
Over the summer, the department installed modular classrooms at the district's newest middle school, Oak Hill, to cope with an expanding student population.
Tomorrow night, School Committee plans to meet for a special meeting to discuss short-term space options for F.A. Day as well as the five strained elementary schools. The meeting is scheduled for 8pm in the School Committee meeting room in the central administration building, 100 Walnut St.